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Sistersville Settles Lawsuit With Ex-Employees

By Staff | Mar 9, 2016

SISTERSVILLE – Mayor Bill Rice said City Hall has settled a lawsuit with two former employees.

Former City Clerk Patricia Soliday and Clerk and Treasurer Diana Mace claimed that their resignations in August 2012 were the result of an illegal and hostile working environment allegedly created by then Mayor David Fox and Recorder Julie Schleier, according to court documents.

Soliday and Mace filed their law suit in January 2013 against City Hall, Fox and Schleier.

“There has been a settlement agreed upon I have been informed,” Rice said late last week. “I was told while no one admits any liability, that it is just simple economics to try to get it resolved.”

Mace and Soliday are being represented by Jividen Law Offices of Wheeling, while legal services for the defendant city and representatives have been retained by the city through Steptoe and Johnson.

Jividen Law Offices did not respond to comment in time for this report.

Rice said a representative from the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson will attend the council meeting on March 14 to discuss the matter. Rice said until he consults with the city’s legal counsel, he can not release the terms of the settlement. Rice said he is not sure how long the settlement will take to finalize.

According to court documents, Mace and Soliday seek compensation and recovery for alleged damages as follows:

– Reimbursements of lost wages, lost income, lost employment opportunity and economic losses, loss of employment benefits, interference with pension benefits and interference with the ability to temporarily access unemployment benefits.

– Reinstatement

– Pre-judgment and post-judgment interest where allowable.

– Severe mental anguish and emotional distress, annoyance, inconvenience, severe embarrassment, severe humiliation, chagrin, fear, and other similar general damages, as well as damages to reputation and character.

– The cost of attorney’s fees as may be appropriate.

– They also seek, if their claims are judged to be true, that the defendants be punished for their alleged illegal conduct to deter the defendants and others similarly situated from engaging in similar conduct in the future.

Mace, Soliday and Kathy Klages, a clerk at City Hall, submitted their resignations in August 2012. According to court documents, Fox and then Councilwoman Schleier allegedly took part in a civil conspiracy to oust Mace from her position as City Clerk and Treasurer so that Schleier could step into the position.

According to court documents, Mace and Soliday claim that their resignations were the result of an illegal and hostile working environment allegedly created by Fox and Schleier in retaliation of the then-clerks’ questioning and reporting of illegal, improper, or unethical practices. Their legal complaints describe the altered working conditions as “so intolerable that any reasonable person would be compelled to resign their employment.”

Both complaints cite negligence by Fox and the City Hall by breaching its duties to the plaintiffs in one or more of the following particulars: negligent hiring or supervision of city officers or employees; failure to protect city employees from retaliatory conduct and a work environment hostile to “whistleblower” employees; failure to respond to employee notices and complaints of a hostile or retaliatory work place environment; failure to respond to employee notices and complaints of unlawful or illegal practices; and failure to adhere to lawful and appropriate practices for the operation of its day-to-day business.

The plaintiffs claim that these alleged acts and omissions caused them to be subjected to a hostile work environment and to be retaliated against in violation of West Virginia public policy.

Mace and Soliday claim that, following their resignations, Fox made defamatory statements accusing the plaintiffs of embezzling public funds from the City Hall by using it to pay for Soliday’s health insurance premiums, according to court documents.

Soliday’s complaint said Fox accused her of using her position in city government to steal water and sewage from the city by manipulating the bill for her home in July 2012 to reflect the minimum monthly charge rather than her actual usage. Fox and Schleier impugned her good character by instructing the West Virginia Public Employees Retirement Board that her departure from employment was “for reasons other than honorable” according to Soliday’s complaint.

Mace and Soliday deny the truth of these defamatory statements which they claim were made against them and allegedly published by the defendants to third parties, according to court documents. They suggest that alleged intentional interference by the defendants caused a delay in receiving pension and unemployment benefits.