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Judge denies former Dumfries building inspector motion for $500,000 in damages

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — Former Dumfries Town Building Official Ray Jackson won’t be able to seek punitive damages or recoup attorneys fees in a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Jackson claims that he was fired without cause or a hearing before the town council, as stipulated in state code, in September 2016. He was hired nine months earlier as the town’s part-time code enforcement officer and was promoted to building official in July 2016.

All of this has sullied his reputation and impacted in income, Jackson’s attorney Sid Kirstein said. Prince William Circuit Court Judge Steven S. Smith denied Jackson’s motion to collect $500,000 for punitive damages, and to recoup attorney fees.

Kirstein said he would continue to push to recoup his client’s lost salary, about $5,000 dating back to September 2016 through the conclusion of the trial.

Dumfries Mayor Gerald Foreman is named as the defendant in the case and was not present at the 10 a.m. hearing on Friday. His attorney Heather Bardot, retained by an insurance company to represent both the mayor and the town government in the matter, told the judge that Jackson was appointed as town code enforcement officer on a part-time permanent basis as noted in an official job offer letter from the town government.

The building official job, however, was awarded on a non-permanent basis because documents from the town never stated the job was permanent, Bardot argued.

“They’re making an argument that I don’t understand,” said Bardot.

That argument has Jackson presumed the job was permanent at the time of his hiring, and when he was fired his rights were violated by Foreman, argued Kirstein.

“When you are appointed a circuit court judge, your honor, it’s assumed that position is a permanent one, at least for the standard eight-year term before being reappointed,” Kirstein told Smith.

Kirstein cited a case from the town of Pulaski, Virginia where Tom Compton, a building official, was fired after 20 years on the job, without hearing before town officials. The lawyer argued this case mirror’s Jackson’s, however, Bardot said it cannot be considered binding after a judge in Warrenton denied it being admitted during a previous, similar case.

That guy worked for the town for 20 years. [Jackson] was with the town for a couple of months,” said Bardot.

Before working for Dumfries, Jackson worked for the Prince William County Government. Dumfries hired a new building official in October following Jackson’s termination.

Both parties in the case have 21 days to refile their motions for the case to proceed. A new court date has not been set.

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