County court clerk hit with second lawsuit

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By Susan Sharp

   A former county employee is alleging she lost her job because she knew too much.

Last week, Maria Partin filed suit in Campbell County Circuit Court against her former boss county court clerk Debbie Wilson. Wilson is being sued in her individual and official capacity.  The county was also named as a defendant in the suit.

While Partin has asked to be reinstated to her deputy clerk position, she also has another request. In the event that allowing her to return to the county clerk’s office is not feasible, Partin has asked for $400,000 in damages.

Partin has claimed Wilson terminated her in January in retaliation for what she knew about the way Wilson ran the county clerk’s office. Specifically, Partin knew another employee, Alene Baird, her mother, was denied a pay increase while others who were much younger were granted one, the filing said.

Baird was later terminated because of her age, according to the lawsuit.

Partin was opposed to Wilson’s “age discrimination practices” and was later fired.

According to the filing, Wilson had been vocal regarding Baird’s status with the county clerk’s office. At one point Wilson had allegedly conveyed a desire to fire Baird for insubordination, which didn’t exist, the lawsuit said. Wilson further allegedly recommended Partin sign a statement acknowledging her authority before she was terminated.

While Wilson allegedly had issues with Partin and her mother, it extended beyond them. Partin’s husband, Campbell County Property Assessor Brandon Partin, appeared to be a source of strain for Wilson. She had criticized Brandon Partin, and expressed her angst about having to share office space in Jellico with the property assessor, the filing said.

Aside from the events that allegedly occurred in the office, Partin claimed Wilson has maligned her in the community. Wilson has allegedly said Partin was fired for bookkeeping errors but this is not true, the filing said.

Firing Partin in this manner was unfair and done for the purpose of advancing Wilson’s own agenda, according to the filing. Maria Partin had been employed at the clerk’s office for 17 years.

Along with this, David Dunaway, Maria Partin’s attorney questioned if Wilson had the authority to fire his client. She was an employee of the Campbell County government and that is where the authority to terminate her lies, he said.

He again alleged in the filing Wilson overstepped her authority to terminate Maria Partin. She did so with the intent to cause Maria Partin “serious economic consequences” and to damage her standing in the community.

Maria Partin simultaneously filed another complaint along with her wrongful termination suit.

Following the state’s worker’s compensation laws, Maria Partin, has sought damages for emotional and physical issues that have resulted from her firing.

Initially terminated on Jan. 12, Maria Partin was reinstated as a deputy clerk just days later. However, this led to an immediate paid suspension, the filing said. This lasted until April 2 when she was again terminated. Dunaway termed these events as “unusual and unexpected.” They were also orchestrated to cause Maria Partin “emotional distress,” which it did along with hypertension, the lawsuit said. Her other symptoms include being unable to sleep and an inability to focus on daily tasks. All of these issues can allegedly be traced backed to her employment and later termination, Dunaway said in the suit.

A specific amount of damages wasn’t listed in the worker’s compensation claim.

Baird filed a similar claim on the same day.

While her circumstances are comparable, Baird allegedly has developed cardiovascular problems as a result of her work environment and subsequent dismissal. She asked the court to consider awarding her an unspecified lump sum. She too has filed a wrongful termination suit against Wilson.

Within that filing, Baird alleged Wilson had carried out a pattern of discrimination against her for several months. She was allegedly denied a pay increase when other, younger, employees were granted raises in recent months, according to the lawsuit. Denying Baird the raise was ageism, Dunaway said.

Treating Baird in a different manner from the other employees was also meant to make an example of Baird, the suit alleges.

The court records claim Wilson wanted to advance her own personal agenda and terminating Baird was a part of that plan. It is further noted within the lawsuit Wilson had previously recommended Baird sign a statement acknowledging her authority.