C.R. Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Director Sues Former Indiana Employer

By George C. Ford, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The executive director of the Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is suing her former employer in federal court, alleging fraud, breach of contract and violation of her First Amendment rights.

Marilee Fowler filed the six-count lawsuit July 9 in Vanderburgh County (Ind.) Superior Court against the Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau. Fowler was executive director of the organization until she resigned, effective March 29.

On March 22, the Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau announced Fowler's selection as executive director, succeeding Tim Boyle who had resigned in September to pursue other interests. Fowler joined the Cedar Rapids Area CVB April 6.

In the lawsuit, which was transferred Tuesday, July 20, to federal court, Fowler alleges that the Evansville CVB placed her on administrative leave Feb. 8 after she disclosed the location of a proposed sports complex in a media interview. The board of the Evansville CVB told Fowler that Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel was upset with the interview and had not wanted the information released.

Fowler was told in a hand-delivered letter on March 8 that if she resigned effective March 29, she would receive severance as spelled out in an agreement that was to be approved by the Evansville CVB board.

After Fowler discussed Weinzapfel's reaction to her interview with reporters in Evansville and Cedar Rapids, the Evansville CVB board refused to approve the severance agreement. The board contended that her comments to the media violated the spirit of the severance agreement.

Fowler is asking for unspecified damages, saying she has suffered and continues to suffer substantial losses in compensation and severance benefits. She has requested a jury trial in the case.
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