Monday, March 12, 2012

County Commissioners Reach Settlement With Former Employee

After much scuttlebutt here and around the community about a potential legal issue involving the Darke County Commissioners, more details are finally available.

On Monday, March 5th in public session, the commissioners accepted a "Separation and Release Agreement" with (now) former Darke County EMA Employee Melody Lucas in which Lucas is to receive $56,000. The full settlement can be read in the meeting minutes, available here. The settlement does not offer any sort of specifics on what the incident that led to the settlement was, but does make it clear that the settlement is in no way an admission of guilt on the part of the county.

Now it is known that the settlement was a result of the following string of events, per John Cook, Business Administrator of Darke County:

In 2009, Lucas reported a violation committed by then EMA Director Mong. The violation was investigated and led to the termination of Mong as EMA Director in 2009. In accordance with the law, Lucas was not fired, disciplined or otherwise negatively impacted, however, she was not hired for the director's position due to a more qualified applicant being chosen. In fact, the commissioners stand by the fact that nothing wrong or inappropriate was done in the interview and selection process of the new EMA Director in 2009.

The incident that led to the settlement is not due to a deliberate breach of confidentiality, but a "breach of trust within the Commissioner's Office," which was defined as "the trust that information discussed inside the walls of the Commissioner's office shall remain inside the walls of the Commissioners Office." This became known when  Lucas' attorney revealed that Lucas had documented, in detail, conversations with Commissioner Delaplane and another county employee, in which they discussed the feelings of the commissioners during private discussions in the Commissioners office.

Cook also clarified again that even though the County is sure in the fact that no wrong doing took place, it was in the best interest of the county to "amicably resolve this matter rather than to engage in the time, expense and distraction as this case proceeded."

We will post more information when it becomes available.

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