SISTERSVILLE - Two former city employees who were among five who resigned in August are taking legal action against the city and two of its leading officials.
Civil action papers filed in Tyler County Circuit Court reveal that former City Clerk Patricia Soliday and former Clerk/Treasurer Diana Mace claim their resignations resulted from an illegal and hostile work environment. Mace and Soliday allege Mayor David Fox and Recorder Julie Schleier created that environment in retaliation for the then-clerk's questioning and reporting of illegal, improper or unethical practices. The lawsuits describe the altered working conditions as "so intolerable that any reasonable person would be compelled to resign their employment."
Mace's complaint suggests "a civil conspiracy to oust her from her position at City Clerk and Treasurer so that the Defendants could give her job to then-councilwoman, defendant, Julie Schleier."
The complaint also states that their "whistleblowing" may have started an investigation by the West Virginia Ethics Commission. Executive Director Theresa Kirk of the West Virginia Ethics Commission stated, however, that she could not confirm an investigation.
Mace and Soliday claim that, following their resignations, the defendants made defamatory statements accusing the plaintiffs of embezzling public funds from the city by using it to pay for Soliday's health insurance premiums.
Soliday's complaint states that 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. It further states that 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."
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. They suggest that alleged intentional interference by the defendants caused a delay in their receiving pension and unemployment benefits.
Mace and Soliday seek compensation and recovery for alleged damages as follows: their loss of employment with the city of Sistersville, for which they seek injunctive relief in the form of reinstatement if the current administration resigns or is ousted; lost wages past and future, lost income, lost employment opportunity and economic losses; loss of employment benefits; interference with pension benefits; interference with and an ability to temporarily access unemployment benefits; severe mental anguish and emotional distress; annoyance, inconvenience, severe embarrassment, severe humiliation, chagrin, fear, and other similar general damages; damage to her reputation and character; pre-judgment and post-judgment interest where allowable; and attorney's fees, costs as may be appropriate.
All plaintiffs and defendants involved declined to comment.