The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.

 

Published August 2, 2017

Hasty’s deposition leads to amended petition in suit

CAMDEN COUNTY - The attorney for County Clerk Rowland Todd has filed a Second Amended Petition after more information came to light during the deposition of Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty.

Todd filed suit as an individual (not as County Clerk) against the three commissioners (Hasty, Beverly Thomas and Don Williams, also as individuals) in March of this year.

The lawsuit is not “The County Clerk vs the County Commission” but has been filed as an individual suing other individuals.

Todd is claiming the commissioners violated his First Amendment rights of Freedom of Speech because he spoke out against what he felt was the county wasting money in the hiring of a new HR Administrator.

On July 21, Todd’s attorney Jerry M. Kirksey asked the Federal Court permission to file an Amended Complaint. On July 28 the judge granted the request.

In his request, Kirksey said new information had become available.

“1. The deposition of Defendant Hasty was recently taken during which new information was discovered, not available at the time of filing of the original Petition, or Amended Petition (both filed prior to responsive pleadings).

“2. Filed herewith is the Amended Complaint inclusive of additional facts and information discovered during the deposition of Defendant Hasty.”

The Amended Complaint adds information to several of the counts along with adding two new counts (Count V and VI) to the suit.

The lawsuit claims that the commissioners only took action to investigate the allegations against Todd after he publicly spoke out and that the investigation was retaliation against him.

The suit was filed in Camden County but was moved to Federal Court after a motion was filed by Ryan Harding, an attorney from Husch Blackwell, representing the three commissioners.

Husch Blackwell compiled a report on the initial incident involving Todd and even though hired by the County Commission, they claimed they were an “independent” investigator.

Todd is claiming that Hasty publicly accused him of stealing and causing a hostile work environment that led to the resignation of Brianna Christensen who was in charge of the Human Resources Department.

Former County Commissioner Cliff Luber was also included in the Husch Blackwell report as helping contribute to the alleged “hostile work environment” but he has yet to be talked to or subpoenaed in the case and was not interviewed in the Husch Blackwell “independent” investigation.

Most of the Amended Petition is rewording of certain accusations and some deletions but there are also additions that, according to Kirksey, came forth from Hasty’s deposition.

The first addition was to the “Background Facts” at the beginning of the petition and states:

“13. Defendants knew that the claim of “hostile work environment” was not related to the gender of Mrs. Christensen” and an addition at the end of number 15 (in italics) “Defendants knew that there was no legitimacy to the claim of ‘hostile work environment’ as made by Christensen.”

Two new facts were inserted in the Second Amended Petition, numbers 19 and 20.

“19. The ‘investigation’ and action taken by the Commission as to Ms. Christensen’s claim of ‘hostile work environment’ was taken within a few days of October 11, 2016.

“20. The Commission considered the October 11, 2016 report to be wrapped up a dead and concluded issue within a few days of October 11, 2016.”

The Amended Petition had included some accusations that were deleted in the Second Amended petition. Those that were deleted were:

• No prompt and immediate investigation of the report occurred or was initiated by the Commissioners.
• Defendants did nothing to investigate under Camden County policy by reason of the statement of Mrs. Christensen in her correspondence of October 11, 2016 until after Plaintiff’s exercise of 1st Amendment rights of free speech.
• Defendants took ZERO/NO action to conduct an investigation, and then it was not Camden County policy, until February 28, 2017 - a delay and period of One Hundred and Forty days (140) days after the correspondence of Mrs. Christen of October 11, 2016.

But a line added did claim that Todd was not investigated until he voiced his concerns, which was well after the October “investigation.”

“No investigation occurred as to plaintiff prior to his voicing matters of public concern as such was not appropriate nor legitimately to occur by a plain reading of the Camden County Handbook.”

The new petition also reworded one background “fact” that originally suggested that Hasty called Todd a thief to actually calling him one.

The original wording:

“On March 1, 2017, Defendant Hasty stated to local media that Plaintiff ‘stole records’ to intimate that Plaintiff was a thief and to coerce and intimidate with the implicit and not to thinly veiled threat of criminal prosecution. Hasty knew that said statement was false.”

The Second Amended Petition wording:

“On March 1, 2017, Defendant Hasty stated to local media that Plaintiff ‘stole records’ calling Plaintiff was a thief a criminal, and threatening criminal prosecution to coerce and intimidate with the threat of criminal prosecution.”

The last new “Background Fact” brings the other two county commissioners into the picture.

“36. On information and belief, the acts of Hasty herein were taken with the knowledge, approval of and as agent for the remaining Defendants.”

That idea has also been added to parts of the new petition – that what Hasty did was done with the knowledge of Thomas and Williams and is reflected in the rewording of parts of Count 1 “Violation of First Amendment Rights.”

Originally all the blame was laid on Hasty but now the claim is that Thomas and Williams were in on it and instead of “he” (Hasty) it now says “Defendants” to include all three commissioners (change in italics).

“43. At the time Defendant Hasty made his statement to KRMS radio defendants knew the statement to be false and misrepresentation of the truth, and specifically:

“a. Defendants knew the October 11, 2011 letter identified Cliff Luber and clerk staff employee, not just Plaintiff as Hasty intentionally singled out and published through KRMS;

“b. Defendants knew Commissioners, county employees and others had expressed concerns as set forth above;

“c. Defendants knew there was nothing to investigate under Camden County policy as set forth above, there was no created hostile environment.”

That was reiterated later in the same section stating that there never was a hostile work environment, as alleged by Christensen.

“The October 11, 2016 statement of ‘hostile work environment’ was NOT related to gender or any protected class;

“The October 11, 2016 statement of ‘hostile work environment’ was not actionable by any legal claim;

“The October 11, 2016 statement of ‘hostile work environment’ was a wrapped up and a closed issue as of a few days after the letter was received by the Commission.”

The Husch Blackwell “independent” investigation basically backed up this claim when they stated that no laws had been violated.

“When asked to explain what she meant by ‘hostile work environment’ in her resignation letter, Christensen herself denied being harassed or discriminated against by anyone based on her gender, race, or membership in any other protected group. Despite her claim that Luber, Todd, and members of Todd’s staff created a ‘hostile work environment,’ HB does not believe Christensen has a viable employment discrimination claim against the County.” – Husch Blackwell report released before Todd filed his suit in March of this year.

Another clarification in the allegations against The Commissioners is that any investigation into a “hostile work environment” in confidential and should not be released to the public.

The Husch Blackwell report was released to the local press soon after it was finished, which the lawsuit claims should not have been done.

“j. Defendants knew that were an investigation conducted of the 10/11/16 claim of a ‘hostile work environment’, the investigation and findings were to be ‘confidential’, yet defendants breached and published the investigation and findings;

“k. Defendants knew that personnel records were to be ‘confidential,’ yet defendants breached and published the investigation and Investigation Report knowing it had personnel record information within it as to employees of the City.”

(The “City” may be a mistake in the petition and should read “County” but the word “City” is in the second Amended Petition.)

Another addition to the new petition alleges that Christensen was having problems performing her duties and the commissioners knew it.

“Defendants were aware that Christensen had stated that she could not reach all employee issues and was going from deadline to deadline in the performance of her duties.”

The commissioners’ threat that Todd may face criminal action was also added to the new petition.

“Defendants threatened criminal action as to plaintiff.”

More changes were made to include all three commissioners and not just Hasty in Todd’s allegations. Count II originally was titled “AS TO DEFENDANT HASTY – “STOLE RECORDS” was changed to “AS TO DEFENDANTS – “STOLE RECORDS” blaming all three for the accusation against Todd.

The was made specific in number 56 of the Second Amended Petition and claims that Hasty was not acting alone but was doing what he did with the knowledge of the other two commissioners.

“56. On information and belief, Defendants Williams and Thomas either knew of the statement in advance, or at the least, ratified the statement with further discussion of all defendants as to criminal prosecution of plaintiff.”

The title of Count III was also changed from singling out Hasty in the publication of the investigative report to “defendants” which includes Thomas and Williams.

Two new counts have been added to the petition (Counts V and VI) and Count V is titled “Defamation by Hasty” and claims that:

“Hasty published to media and other parties that plaintiff ‘stole’ property, and specifically that he ‘stole’ records.

“Hasty knew that in making his published statement he was publishing to the public his, Hasty, calling plaintiff a thief, a criminal.

“Hasty knew that plaintiff would be harmed by his statement.

“Hasty knew that he should have 100% of the facts before making such a serious accusation as saying plaintiff stole, as otherwise it was objectionable, reckless and wrong to make such a statement.

“Hasty knew that he did NOT have 100 of the facts, nor even close at the time he made his statement.

“Hasty knew that on two or three occasion prior to plaintiff’s retrieving of the payroll records of which Hasty said were ‘stolen’ that clerk staff had told him they needed access to the HR office to perform clerk functions.

“In fact, Hasty had been asked by clerk staff for access to the HR office to retrieve records the day before plaintiff and others transferred the payroll records back to the clerk’s office.

“At the time of his statement, Hasty knew that departments within the County were to cooperate with each other, including that departments would share information, including documents between departments.

“As a direct result of the statement made by Hasty, plaintiff has been damaged, including as to reputation, embarrassment, anguish and humiliation.”

Count VI is “Punitives” and simply asked for a ruling in favor of Todd.

“The conduct herein was malicious, wrong, known to be wrong and in reckless disregard of the rights of plaintiff and what society should accept justifying the imposition of punitive damages to deter such conduct imposition of punitive damages to deter such conduct. WHEREFORE Plaintiff prays for judgment against Defendants and for all further relief the Court deems just and proper.”

More facts in the case should be coming to light soon since several other players involved in the situation have been subpoenaed for a deposition and those are Brianna Christensen, Brad Boekman, Nathan Bechtold.

Todd is personally paying his legal fees and no county funds are being used for his attorney.

Some are wondering if this will have an impact on next year’s elections.

Todd, Hasty and Thomas are up for re-election in 2018, if they seek their office again.

As of press time there had been no response from the commissioner’s attorneys to the Second Amended Petition.

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