County, two commissioners hit with harassment suits

The recent wave of harassment allegations in the national news hits close to home, with two Susquehanna County Commissioners and the Director of Veterans Affairs personally named in two lawsuits filed Nov. 29 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Susquehanna County and Commissioners Elizabeth Arnold and MaryAnn Warren, both named directly in the two lawsuits; and Richard Ely, the county’s Director of Veterans Affairs, was named in one suit.
Both suits allege that former Chief Clerk R.S. Stoud, of Montrose, and Deputy Chief Clerk Maggie McNamara, of Friendsville, were subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation by the two commissioners named in the cases after reporting an allegation of sexual harassment.
McNamara and Stoud filed against the county and the individual plaintiffs following an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
McNamara’s suit also seeks redress for sexual harassment and unlawful gender discrimination, in addition to the hostile work environment and retaliation claims.
Stoud case involves only the hostile work environment and retaliation allegations against the county, Arnold and Warren.
Commissioner Alan Hall, who was not individually named in either case, said, “It is a serious matter and the county is allowing its attorneys and insurance company to review (the cases).”
McNamara case background
McNamara had been hired in June 2014 as an Administrative Assistant to the Chief Clerk, and promoted to Deputy Chief Clerk in 2015, with R.S. Stoud as her direct supervisor.
According to court documents, McNamara was approached in the courthouse by Ely in December 2015 who attempted to kiss and hug her and she moved away from those advances.
That day, according to court documents, Ely approached McNamara in her car as she was preparing to go home, stuck his face into the vehicle and made a “kissing lips” facial expression, saying, “You won’t get this offer again.”
McNamara again declined the advances and reported the incidents to her supervisor.
Ely received a written warning on Dec. 30, 2015 from Stoud regarding the conduct.
Stoud’s suit against the county and two commissioners notes the incident between Ely and McNamara as the starting point of increasing and constant harassment of the Deputy Chief Clerk and himself by the commissioners.
McNamara also claimed that after reporting the incident involving Ely, she was subjected to unfair criticisms about her work from Commissioners Warren and Arnold.
The lawsuit alleges that Warren was “consistently overcritical and unfair” and “publicly humiliated McNamara at meetings.
McNamara also spoke to Stoud and Commissioner Alan Hall. According to the filing, Hall agreed the criticism was unfair and constant.
The suit goes on to allege that Warren and Arnold made complaints concerning McNamara’s interaction with other employees; with Warren also making comments about firing the Deputy Chief Clerk.
McNamara was also assigned by Warren to work in close quarters with Ely, despite knowing of the original complaint made against him, and the deputy chief clerk reported to the commissioners that she was uncomfortable with the arrangement and that Ely would often yell and get angry with her.
The harassment and criticism of McNamara by Warren and Arnold continued through May 2015, according to the U.S. Court filing, and McNamara informed Stoud, who in turn notified Hall and County Solicitor Michael Giangrieco, but no remedial action was taken at that time.
In June 2016, McNamara learned Arnold had told others that she wanted both McNamara and Stoud fired, according to the lawsuit.
McNamara claims that the harassment and criticism followed her reporting the December 2015 incident with Ely. She, subsequently, left the position as Deputy Chief Clerk for a position in the District Attorney’s office which resulted in a loss of pay.
McNamara is seeking compensation and reimbursement for pay and benefits she would have received as Deputy Chief Clerk, and is also seeking compensation for the pain, suffering, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional distress.
McNamara also seeks reinstatement to the position with all the pay and benefits, or if not feasible, an award of front pay is sought.
She is also asking the court to enjoin the defendants from engaging in sexual harassment of employees, and from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex.
Stoud case background
Stoud was hired by the county as the Emergency Management Coordinator in 2012 and later that year given a new position as Director of Public Safety. In 2014, he was promoted to Acting Chief Clerk, and became Chief Clerk in January 2016.
According to the lawsuit filed by Stoud, he was also subjected to harassment and retaliation after reporting the incident involving Ely and McNamara; and in May 2016, he informed Hall that he believed he was facing retaliation for defending the Deputy Chief Clerk from the harassment.
According to court documents, retaliatory and harassing actions against Stoud included personal and derogatory comments made against him by Arnold, and that both Arnold and Warren undermined his authority as Chief Clerk.
On June 7, 2016, Stoud again complained to Arnold and Warren of a hostile work environment due to the two making personal and derogatory comments about him. According to the court filing, the two defendant commissioners also intimated he was conducting an improper relationship with a co-worker.
That same day, Arnold confronted Stoud and informed him she was unhappy that he made the hostile work environment complaint. The, according to the suit, Arnold went to another employee and indicated she wanted Stoud fired.
Following the June 7, 2016 meeting, Stoud was instructed by Arnold and Warren to conduct “write-ups” of both himself and McNamara and, according to the suit, was informed by them that if he didn’t comply, the Deputy Chief Clerk would be terminated immediately.
The lawsuit claims Stoud completed the write-ups under duress.
On June 22, 2016, the lawsuit alleges Arnold again implied Stoud was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker; and on July 13, 2016, Arnold informed Hall she wanted to eliminate the Director of Public Safety position Stoud planned to return to after serving as Chief Clerk.
The court filing also claims that in late October 2016, Arnold with Warren present, entered Stoud’s office and subjected him to an unprovoked verbal attack with other employees witnessing the incident. Stoud documented the incident in a letter to all three commissioners. A letter was also sent to the county solicitor.
“Puzzling, after this incident, (Arnold) demanded an apology from (Stoud). When (Stoud) refused, (Arnold) slammed the door to (Stoud’s) office,” reads the court document.
Stoud was then ordered by Hall and Warren to have the county’s human resources director present at all times when he interacted with Arnold.
On Oct. 31, 2016, Arnold was notified by letter from Commissioners Hall and Warren that Arnold’s actions toward Stoud were “harassing and retaliatory and must stop immediately.”
On January 9, 2017, Warren and Arnold demanded to view all emails sent between Stoud and McNamara after the former Deputy Chief Clerk took the position in the district attorney’s office.
Stoud claims in the case filing that Arnold and Warren wanted to review the emails for personal, retaliatory and harassing reasons. This was in violation of county policy, the suit claims.
On April 3, Arnold spoke with subordinates in the Chief Clerk’s office and inquired if his job was necessary.
Stoud left the position of Chief Clerk on April 16 to take the Chief County Detective position in the District Attorney’s office. Stoud was to serve in a dual role of Chief County Detective and Director of Public Safety but the harassment from Arnold and Warren did not end, according to the case filing. The two scrutinized the office location, undermined his authority and cased distress in his new position.
According to the lawsuit, Stoud suffered harassment and retaliation as a result of his defense of McNamara who had been subjected to sexual harassment, retaliation and harassment; and as a result of his assistance and participation in an investigation of the unlawful practices.
The harassing and retaliatory actions by Arnold and Warren also increased after he notified the EEOC, according to court documents, and he left the position because he felt he could no longer be subjected to the hostile work environment created by the two commissioners named in the suit.
Stoud also seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
During a commissioners’ meeting in late 2016 and upon questioning from attendees about lawsuits involving the county, Hall noted that the EEOC was investigating incidents from early 2016 but provided no additional information at that time.

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