Mar. 2—Reading's former city solicitor has filed a lawsuit asking the court to reinstate her immediately.
The suit claims Mayor Eddie Moran broke the city's Home Rule Charter when he fired Solicitor Elizabeth Kraft last week.
The lawsuit asks the court to reinstate Kraft as the city solicitor and declare Moran violated the city's charter by removing Kraft.
Kraft's attorney, Marc E. Weinstein, filed the lawsuit in Berks County Court Monday morning.
When Kraft arrived at City Hall on Feb. 23, she learned that Moran removed her from office.
"She was given no advance warning or explanation," Weinstein wrote in the lawsuit. "When she explained that firing her required an act of City Council, she was threatened with arrest for trespassing."
The lawsuit also suggests Moran had an ulterior motive for firing Kraft.
"The mayor's action came on the heels of Ms. Kraft's ongoing battle against administration wrongdoing and/or improprieties," Weinstein wrote.
The lawsuit did not go into detail about the "wrongdoing and/or improprieties, and Weinstein declined to elaborate when reached for comment on Monday.
"Ms. Kraft will detail the improprieties upon prompt request from City Council, or promptly in another forum," he said.
Moran named Fred Lachat interim solicitor after Kraft was fired, Christian Crespo, communications coordinator for the city, said last week.
The city had no comment regarding the lawsuit and accusations.
"We have no further comment as this is a personnel matter," Crespo said Monday afternoon.
Council met in executive session Monday evening after the end of its committee of the whole meeting to discuss a personnel issue. All seven City Council members, Mayor Eddie Moran, Managing Director Abraham Amoros, interim City Solicitor Fred Lachat, assistant city solicitor Anna LaMano and labor counsel for the city Pat Harvey of the firm Campbell Durant were in the meeting.
The lawsuit focuses on Section 309 and 310 of the city's governing documents. Section 309 states the mayor shall appoint one city solicitor. That person shall hold the office unless removed and until a successor is appointed and qualified. Council also has to confirm the solicitor by four votes, the charter states.
The mayor does not have the authority to remove the city solicitor unless he appoints another solicitor and that nominee is confirmed by council, Weinstein said.
City Council has the authority to remove the solicitor under Section 211 of the charter, Weinstein contends in the suit.
"The mayor, however, cannot unilaterally remove the solicitor, which he has tried to do here," Weinstein said.
In addition to the lawsuit, Kraft sent a statement to council on the recent events.
"I am hopeful that I have earned your trust and confidence since being appointed and confirmed as city solicitor last May," the statement said.
Kraft also suggested her removal was because she opposed ongoing misconduct in City Hall.
"Although it's irrelevant to whether the mayor violated the charter in expelling me from the Solicitor's office, it is likely the case that his action was motivated by my ongoing resistance to a slew of improprieties," Kraft wrote.
Kraft did not elaborate about her accusation.
In the statement to council, Kraft said she would cooperate with any investigation council may undertake.
In 2018, the city's Charter Board issued an advisory opinion that stated council could investigate the mayor.
The charter board, which issues advisory opinions on matters involving Reading's Home Rule Charter, also found that council can hire an independent counsel and support staff to conduct the investigation.
The charter board's opinion stated council could investigate the interactions of a department, office or agency with the mayor.
The advisory opinion was requested by former City Councilman John Slifko after former Mayor Wally Scott removed two top city officials and a third resigned after being disciplined.