The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

December 8, 2013

Borough seeks halt to firing lawsuit

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

GREENVILLE — Nancy Little on Aug. 20 sued the borough, council members Brian W. Shipley, Pamela S. Auchter, Donald B. Shaw, Anthony D’Alfonso, Alfred Peden, Theodore Jones and Megan Heathcote, and Borough Manager Jasson Urey

Heathcote replaced Little, the fact which forms the basis of a claim of conflict of interest.

Little also charged that council violated her free-speech and due-process rights, her employment contract, wrongfully fired her and made misrepresentations to her.

“The majority of (Little’s) causes of action are premised upon the assumption that (Little) had a contract for employment,” the borough said in a motion to dismiss filed Nov. 19. “In reality, (Little) was an at-will employee who was terminated for cause.”

Little, 58, of One Homerun Drive, Fredonia, was hired in June 2009 and was fired Sept. 12, 2012. She said Urey told her council wanted her gone because of “breach of confidentiality” but never explained what confidentiality had been breached.

Little denied the accusation and said “any rules relative to confidentiality have not been uniformly enforced.”

The day before Little’s firing, Heathcote was appointed to fill a vacancy on council and participated in the vote to fire Little, Little said. Heathcote’s appointment to council was illegal because there were no public interviews, Little alleged.

Heathcote resigned Oct. 9, 2012, and was hired to replace Little.

“Ms. Heathcote was quoted publicly as saying that, if she had known that the position was becoming available, she would not have applied to be on council,” Little said.

Little also alleged Heathcote “harbor(ed) a desire for (Little’s) job.”

Little said her at-will status was transferred to a contract employee by way of the employee policy, which gives employees appeal rights.

The presence of an employee handbook does not transfer an at-will employee to contract status unless the transfer is the “specific intent of the parties,” the borough said.

Little’s civil rights claims should be dismissed because the borough is immune and she has not alleged the negligence required to overcome immunity, the borough said.

Little does not say how her free-speech rights were violated, and has not alleged that council has a policy or custom denying civil liberties, the borough said.

The ethics charge should be dismissed because a federal court does not have jurisdiction over the application and enforcement of this state law, the borough said.