Former employee files lawsuit against Carbondale
July 21, 2006
A former utilities supervisor for Carbondale has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the town. Tom McClelland’s attorney, Richard Dally, filed a notice of claim for $1 million against the town in March. The town had 90 days to respond before the matter would go to court.The claim revolves around Carbondale utility director Ed Fortner, who was found guilty of poaching a deer from his back porch on Nov. 6. The Colorado Division of Wildlife levied a fine and ticketed Fortner. He faced accusations of using a town truck to discard the remains of the animal and involving other utility department employees in the incident.An independent investigation by the Mountain States Employers Council found that Fortner did use town staff and equipment inappropriately, but found the behavior was not grounds for dismissal.Carbondale Town Manager Tom Baker previously said that McClelland’s dismissal was the result of poor job performance. The town fired McClelland on Jan. 20.The claim’s purpose was only to give the town notice of the allegations and the damages McClelland is seeking. The town did not respond to the claim.”The outcome is nothing,” Dally said. “They ignored it.”With the filing of the lawsuit Friday in District Court in Glenwood Springs, the matter now will be up to the court to decide. Dally would not comment on specific damages the suit is seeking. “That’s up to a jury,” he said.”It’s a natural consequence of the injuries that were suffered. It’s not a last resort,” Dally said.Baker did not return messages seeking comment late Friday afternoon.The lawsuit states that Fortner and other unnamed town employees conspired to terminate McClelland to cover up Fortner’s poaching and use of town resources. The suit also claims Fortner physically and verbally assaulted McClelland on several occasions.The town hired McClelland, who lives in Leadville, on Nov. 29. On Dec. 5, the suit alleges, one of his employees told him Fortner had poached a deer and used Carbondale employees and a town truck to dispose of the carcass.According to the lawsuit, McClelland confronted Fortner in January with the allegations. Fortner allegedly replied, “You should have never questioned me about that goddamn deer.”It was at that point that Fortner allegedly struck McClelland three times on the shoulder with a notepad.The lawsuit says that on the day of McClelland’s firing, Fortner allegedly told McClelland, “If you keep your mouth shut, I’ll give you two weeks of pay.”Also on that day, McClelland reported Fortner to the Colorado Division of Wildlife for poaching.Fortner and McClelland both declined to comment for this story. Greg Schreier of The Aspen Times contributed to this story.