Kansas City police union spokeswoman says she was cheated out of pay and wrongly fired
A former spokeswoman for the union that represents Kansas City police officers has filed a lawsuit saying she was fired after asking questions about wages she was owed for her work.
Jeanene Kiesling, who was fired by the union late last year, filed the lawsuit last month in Jackson County Circuit Court against the Kansas City Missouri Fraternal Order, Lodge No. 99 and the Kansas City Police Officers Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit that provides support to officers of the Kansas City Police Department.
Kiesling was employed by both organizations, serving as media spokesperson for the union and working to raise money for the foundation. In the lawsuit, she says she was fired by both organizations after she asked questions about how foundation paid her.
The union and the foundation are located in the same building and several of its members served on the boards of directors for both groups.
Kiesling was hired in 2016 as the union’s director of media and public relations, and also by the foundation as its development director. She split her time between the organizations.
Kiesling alleges the foundation changed the way she was compensated, but did not tell her. At times, she questioned how she was being paid, but when she raised concerns, the union president, Brad Lemon, “verbally abused her,” according to the lawsuit.
“There were no reasons causing Kiesling’s termination other than her inquiries into her protected federal and state rights pertaining to her employment,” her attorney Eric G. Kraft wrote.
On previous occasions, the lawsuit said, Lemon had threatened to terminate Kiesling for asking about her wages. But in past cases when he did so, other union board members made “excuses” for his behavior and negated her firing “within hours.”
Lemon declined The Star’s request for comment and referred questions to the lodge’s attorneys. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kiesling could not be reached for comment.
As the foundation’s development director, Kiesling was tasked with raising money and serving as the group’s public face. In compensation for fundraising events, she was to be paid 20% of the gross amounts collected between the first and last day of the previous month.
In late 2022, Kiesling contacted the foundation’s business manager, who confirmed that she was owed 20% of the gross proceeds from a charity golf event, according to the lawsuit.
The foundation’s board later met to discuss the issue. Afterward, Kiesling was told the foundation owed her “a lot” of money but she was told to “come up with a number” of what she thought she was owed, according to her lawsuit.
The foundation’s board did not give her records needed to figure out what that might be, her attorney said. The board paid her “several thousand” dollars, but Kiesling and the foundation believed she was owed more, her lawyer wrote in the lawsuit.
In December, she requested a meeting, but was soon told that she was fired.
“After considered deliberations, both Boards have decided that it is necessary and prudent to end your employment relationship with both,” Lemon said in an email sent to Kiesling on Dec. 30, according to her lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses the foundation and the union of failure to pay wages, breach of contract, wrongful discharge, retaliation, civil conspiracy and a hostile work environment.
Members from both boards of directors regularly communicated and were aware of each other’s activities, she said.
Prior to going to work for the union, Kiesling was a reporter for KCTV5 for just over a decade.
Kiesling’s petition seeks a judgment in an amount exceeding $75,000.