Former legislative assistant sues state, claims wrongful termination

Members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives take their oath of office to start a new two-year term on Nov. 16.
Members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives take their oath of office to start a new two-year term on Nov. 16.

A former legislative assistant is suing the state of Oklahoma, claiming leaders in the House of Representatives wrongly fired her after she attempted to calm a confrontation between Black Lives Matter protestors and Republican lawmakers.

On April 20, 2021, Amari Kimbro, who had worked as the legislative assistant for Rep. Andy Fugate and former Rep. Denise Brewer, both Democrats, observed a group of people who claimed to be Black Lives Matter supporters in the House gallery near her office.

When the protestors were confronted by multiple Republican lawmakers, Kimbro was “convinced there would be a physical altercation,” so she attempted to calm the protestors and asked them to leave, according to her lawsuit, which was filed last week in Oklahoma City federal court.

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Less than two months after the incident, Kimbro said Jason Sutton, director of operations for the House of Representatives, fired her without providing details or answering her questions.

Kimbro believes she was fired because she is Black and a member of the Black Lives Matter organization, according to her lawsuit.

Kimbro also claims Sutton threatened to give her bad employment references if she did not sign a voluntary resignation letter, which she declined to sign, according to her attorney, Mark Hammons.

Sutton and a spokesperson for House Speaker Charles McCall’s office did not return a request for comment.

Democratic lawmakers were surprised over their assistant's firing

The Oklahoma state Capitol.
The Oklahoma state Capitol.

Both Fugate and Brewer, who hired Kimbro in 2019, told The Oklahoman they weren't consulted by House leaders or staff about their legislative assistant's removal, nor did they want her removed.

“I was dumbfounded,” Brewer said.

Representatives typically hire their own legislative assistants.

Former Rep. Denise Brewer.
Former Rep. Denise Brewer.

“I was shocked that someone of such high caliber, such a quality and dedicated servant to the state would have been removed in such an abrupt and unfair manner,” Brewer told The Oklahoman.

Kimbro received a right-to-sue letter in April from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a necessary step in filing a federal wrongful termination lawsuit, said Hammons, Kimbro’s attorney.

“The nature of the dispute clearly appears to be race-based,” Hammons said.

Brewer said she remembered the protest in 2021 and watched some Republican lawmakers confront the protestors who were chanting in the gallery.

“We had some representatives who took great, over-the-top, frightening offense to this,” Brewer said. “A couple of these representatives got so heated and they were just red in the face, they were steaming. They ran up into the gallery, and it was very obvious that things were going to get violent.”

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Legislative assistant sues Oklahoma House over her removal