Council Lets Mayor Sign Off on Settlement
SISTERSVILLE – City Council voted to allow Mayor Bill Rice sign off on a lawsuit settlement involving two former employees. The vote was held Monday at a regular council meeting, after executive session.
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.
After Monday’s council meeting, Rice said he could not comment on the details of the settlement until it is finalized.
“I believe that getting this behind us is the best thing, so we can move forward,” he said. “We have many problems with infrastructure that have to be addressed as well as other issues.”
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.