Former HR Director Sues City For Discrimination


March 6, 2020 Jury Finds The City Of Lee’s Summit Is Not Liable

June 15, 2018

By Diane Krizek

Former Director of Human Resources Denise Kelly filed a lawsuit against the City of Lee’s Summit for unlawful employment practices and discrimination on May 25, 2018. Kelly, a 62-year-old African American resident of Lee’s Summit, served as director from July 4, 2014 to Mar. 24, 2017.

In her petition, Kelly alleges that when she entered into the Management Agreement with the City, she was one of only three women in management and was the only director not provided with a mileage stipend/allowance in her contract and received the lowest pay.

Kelly claims that she had a good working relationship with the Assistant City Manager Daren Fristoe (now age 54, white male) who hired her. When he left city employment in Dec. 2014, Assistant City Manager Christal Weber (now age 45, white female) became her supervisor with whom she also had a good working relationship. Kelly received a positive performance review from Weber and a 2% merit raise in June 2015.

In July 2015, Director of Administration Nick Edwards (now age 36, white male) became Kelly’s direct supervisor in addition to his supervision of the City Clerk’s and IT departments.

Kelly claims Edwards questioned her whereabouts despite her informing him that she would be in a meeting. He allegedly withheld information she needed to know to do her job, screamed at her, made accusatory comments towards her and rejected nearly all of her suggestions and requests.

In contrast, IT manager Steve Marsh (now age 47, white male) allegedly came and went as he pleased, was not screamed at and his suggestions were routinely accepted by Edwards.

Kelly claims Edwards required her to create a Power Point presentation outlining her Human Resources department goals in Sept. 2015 which he never required of his other subordinate managers and directors.

In April 2016, Edwards allegedly screamed at her because “he is the only person that should be talking during meetings” and soon after yelled at her about things she had no knowledge of. When she allegedly confronted him about stopping his harassment and bullying of her, she also told him that she could not sleep worrying about what accusations he would make towards her but he did not respond.

After six months of supervision under Edwards, Kelly allegedly asked City Manager Steve Arbo (now age 55, white male) if she could report directly to him because of Edward’s negative treatment of her which she articulated. Arbo declined her request.

About the same time, Kelly claims that Assistant City Attorney Jackie McCormick Heanue (now age 35, white female) confirmed that Edwards intentionally kept information from Kelly and that Edwards rebuffed Heanue’s counsel.

The petition states Kelly received a positive performance review and a 2% merit raise from Edwards in June 2016.

Soon after, City Clerk Denise Chisum (now age 65, white female) allegedly admitted to Kelly that she was ready to resign after working for the City for over 30 years because of Edwards talking down to her and accusing her of not doing what she was supposed to be doing. Chisum also told Kelly that she reported to Arbo about Edwards behavior towards her and Kelly.

The petition states that in July 2016 Edwards requested Kelly’s assistance in firing Chisum who was the only older female employee besides Kelly. Edwards allegedly admitted that he could not relate to Chisum nor discuss things with her because she was an older woman. Kelly claims she advised Edwards to talk to Chisum with respect, like he would anyone else.

That month, Kelly allegedly approached Arbo about allowing her to report to Weber because of Edward’s treatment of her. Arbo denied her request.

While under Edward’s supervision, Kelly claims that Edwards asked her assistance in firing four older female employees without any legitimate basis for termination.

In Feb. 2017, Edwards informed Kelly the City was canceling her Management Agreement and put her on administrative leave without providing any reason for the decision. In March, Kelly’s employment and Management Agreement were officially terminated.

Dimple “Denise” Kelly’s legal representation is the Meyers Law Firm, LLC. A court date is scheduled for Sept. 15 with Judge James Kanatzar presiding.
On July 31, 2014, the City of Lee’s Summit posted its announcement about selecting Denise Kelly for its Human Resources Director on its website.

Kelly’s “impressive professional human resources experience includes leadership roles in the public and private sector. Most recently, she served as director of Human Capital Management for the Kansas City Public School System. Prior to that role, she worked for Mazuma Credit Union and St. Luke’s Shawnee Mission Health System.

“An 18-year resident of Lee’s Summit, Ms. Kelly has been active in her profession and her community, through service and membership with the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) both national and Kansas City Missouri chapters; the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources – Kansas City Chapter (NAAAHRKC), where she served as president; the Women’s Association of Credit Union Leaders; the 2014 Lee’s Summit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Planning Committee; the board of directors of the Eason Academy; and an advisory board member for the Academy of Finance.

“Ms. Kelly earned her Master of Business Administration from Baker University and her Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Missouri.”



  • John Q

    June 17, 2018 - 8:14 pm

    Fact check: Daren Fristoe was never the City Manager.

    • admin

      June 17, 2018 - 8:22 pm

      You are quite right, thank you. He was Assistant City Manager.

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