Fired worker sues airport district for defamation, benefits

Beaman

Longtime Charleston airport employee Becky Beaman is suing her former employer for defamation and unpaid retirement benefits, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Beaman, through her attorney, Nancy Bloodgood, filed the lawsuit in Charleston County Circuit Court against Charleston County Airport District. She is requesting a jury trial.

Beaman, 67, worked at Charleston International Airport for nearly 30 years before being fired in November for insubordination over the use of a video camera to solve a case of missing food in the agency’s offices.

The video determined a construction worker was involved in the missing food incident, and the agency asked the contractor to remove the employee from the airport.

Beaman, who served as the airport spokeswoman, said she never authorized anyone to install a camera.

In the suit, Beaman alleges her abrupt termination “falsely infers and insinuates to her former co-workers and the public that she has done something particularly wrong to lose her job.”

The suit claims the airport district’s “actions, representations and statements related to its termination of (Beaman’s) employment clearly insinuates to her co-workers and the public that she was discharged for wrongful activity, unethical behavior and/or violation of a law or policy, all of which are false.”

As for the claim of unpaid retirement benefits, Beaman retired from the agency in 2008 and returned to work under the state’s Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive program, or TERI. The plan allows state employees to retire and then return to work if they so choose.

Beaman alleges the airport district promised to pay her $250 a month toward her retiree health insurance after she retired, but that she never received any contribution.

Beaman, who earned $120,000 a year, did not specify a dollar amount in damages she is requesting in her lawsuit.

The airport board has retained employment attorney Jenny Horne to represent it. Horne, a state lawmaker, is the same lawyer the agency hired in 2013 after former Airports Director Sue Stevens abruptly resigned in July of that year and filed a gender discrimination complaint against the authority.

Bloodgood represented Stevens in that case. It was settled out of court last July for $270,000.

Aviation Authority attorney Arnold Goodstein said he was not aware of the lawsuit filed Tuesday. He referred questions to Horne, who did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.