A United States District Court Judge has ordered that four counts lodged against the county by a former employee will head to trial.
US District Judge Malachy Mannion, of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, issued the order on July 7 in the lawsuit filed by the county’s former chief clerk, R.S. Stoud.
In court documents, Stoud alleges his rights were violated when he was subjected to a hostile work environment in retaliation for investigating and reporting an incident of sexual harassment alleged by a female subordinate against a county official.
The judge denied a motion for summary judgement in the matter noting there are “substantial questions” regarding the allegations. Judge Mannion issued a 30-page memorandum on the lawsuit, filed separately from the order for a trial.
Stoud initiated the lawsuit in November 2017 with claims the for retaliation and creating a hostile work environment when he was employed as the chief clerk. He alleges that after he reported the inappropriate conduct to the county commissioners, “they subjected him to increasing and pervasive harassment and retaliation.”
Former Deputy Chief Clerk Maggie McNamara – who also filed suit against the county. That case was settled and dismissed by the court in January 2020.
In the original complaint, Commissioner Elizabeth Arnold and former Commissioner MaryAnn Warren were personally named in the suit, as well as the county, but the individual claims against the two commissioners were dismissed.
According to court documents, McNamara reported an alleged incident of unwanted advances by a county employee at a holiday party to Stoud, who then reported the incident to the commissioners and asked the county sheriff to hold the video tape of the incident that allegedly occurred in the county parking lot.
Arnold was not yet a commissioner when the alleged incident occurred but took office in January 2016 and was informed about the situation.
After McNamara filed a complaint, she was assigned by the commissioners to assist the person involved in the alleged sexual harassment, according to the background information provided in the judge’s memorandum.
Warren admitted that after McNamara’s complaint, she witnessed a “constant animus and harassment” toward Stoud and McNamara by Arnold. Warren stated that Arnold alleged the chief clerk and deputy chief clerk were having an affair, and that those rumors “perpetuated by Arold undermined (Stoud’s) authority and credibility.”
According to court documents, Arnold also admitted to spreading the rumors to other county employees, including Warren and Commissioner Alan Hall. Arnold further admitted that “she may have wanted to remove responsibilities” from Stoud.
Stoud alleges in the case that in the early part of 2016, Arnold and Warren subjected him to progressively worse harassment and retaliation and complained about the treatment to Hall, Warren and then-solicitor, Michael Giangrieco.
In 2016, the county’s human resource director advised Stoud and Hall that Arnold and Warren wanted the two employees – Stoud and McNamara – fired. According to the documents, the HR director stated that she wanted to “break up” the alleged relationship “to save their marriages.”
McNamara ended up transferring to the district attorney’s office in June 2016, after Stoud was told by the commissioners to issue her a write-up for “poor performance.” In June of that same year, Stoud resigned from the chief clerk position.
Stoud learned that after McNamara’s transfer, Warren and Arnold directed the county IT department to pull all the emails sent between Stoud and McNamara. Hall testified that Solicitor Giangrieco advised Warren and Hall against doing it.
Stoud testified that the harassment and retaliatory behavior continued after he left the position in the commissioner’s office.
In a deposition, Warren admitted the harassment of Stoud had been constant, and that Arnold had been warned to stop spreading rumors.
Hall’s deposition testimony corroborated Stoud’s allegations about Arnold’s insinuations of an affair and said he had told her to stop the behavior.
In the memorandum written by the judge, he states that the evidence shows Stoud established all of the elements of his retaliation claim against the county, including adverse employment action.
The judge wrote: “Indeed, it cannot be ignored that Arnold was truing to undermine (Stoud’s) authority shortly after he reported the December 2015… incident.”
The judge also wrote that Stoud provided more than enough evidence to show he suffered a hostile work environment.