TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

July 25, 2013

Settlement reached in lawsuit against judge/exec


TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

CORBIN —

By John L. Ross / Staff Writer

A lawsuit filed in federal court against Whitley County Judge/Executive Pat White Jr. by a former 911 dispatch shift supervisor was put to rest with an $80,000 settlement.

Teresa Warren, along with then-supervisor Angela Matney, were fired from their positions more than three years ago allegedly for issues that they violated the county’s personnel policy.

Warren filed her lawsuit against White nearly one year after she was fired. She was represented by attorney Nick Vaughn.

Warren sued White both in his official capacity and as an individual.

She alleged she was fired shortly after providing a Kentucky State Police detective information about “issues of public concern, including but not limited to, possible illegal corruption, unethical conduct, malfeasance, misfeasance and misconduct regarding the defendant’s performance in the office of Whitley County Judge/Executive,” the complaint stated.

In addition to violating Warren’s constitutional right to speak to the detective with a “wrongful and retaliatory discharge,” the complaint alleges that Warren’s discharge violated state public policy as allowed by law and the Kentucky Constitution.

The complaint further alleged Warren was defamed when White released “false statements to the local press” about the reason for the firing.

A copy of the signed “Release of All Claims” document states, “…I, Teresa Warren, do hereby release, acquit, and forever discharge the defendant, Pat White Jr. in his official capacity as Whitley County Judge Executive and in his individual capacity, the Whitley County Fiscal Court, it’s (sic) members, past, present, and future, Whitley County, Kentucky, the Whitley County E-911 Board, it’s (sic) members, past and present, and any and all of their heirs, employees, insured’s (sic), representatives, assigns, parent companies, and subsidiaries of each, from any and all actions, causes of action, claims, demands, damages, costs, loss of services, expenses, and/or compensation of any nature whatsoever incurred or to hereafter incur on account of or in any way, growing out of any known or unknown, foreseen and unforeseen, physical and mental injuries and/or damages or consequences therefrom, resulting or to result from any and all incidents which allegedly occurred during her employment or termination by Whitley County, Kentucky, the Whitley County E-911 Board or Pat White Jr. and which resulted in claims against the released parties.”

Basically, this settlement is the end of the road.

“I really can’t say anything,” White said. “But I will say I was not part of the final decision to settle.”

It was unclear how the decision came to fruition; however, the release document was signed by Warren on June 22.

In federal court documents, an Agreed Order of Dismissal was signed June 28 by Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove. It states that White and Warren, with their attorneys, “…agree to a dismissal of all of the plaintiff’s claims filed herein, and those which could have been raised, with prejudice.” It also stipulates each party is responsible for their attorney’s fees.

After the firing, the Times-Tribune obtained through an open records request copies of emails and a 4 minute and 44 second recording of a call patched through the Whitley County 911 dispatch center which included profane exchanges, racial slurs and a conversation in which Warren told a sheriff’s deputy she is the “devil.”

After the release, Warren said the exchange with the deputy occurred after he made disparaging remarks about her to her ex-son-in-law and she feared it could result in fewer visits with her grandson.

Warren said she and the deputy maintained a “working relationship” following the call. She also said the emails exchanged with another dispatch center employee were a lighthearted, longtime practice that helped them to relieve tension in an otherwise stressful job.

Attempts to contact Warren about this matter were unsuccessful.

However, the last paragraph in her signed release states, “I (Warren) agree to keep the terms of this settlement confidential. The released parties may file enforcement actions relating to the confidentiality of this settlement in the court from which this case was dismissed, and may recover, upon proof shown, damages incurred is a result of disclosure, including but not limited to sanctions or contempt penalties.”