Trial set in wrongful firing case
CARBONDALE – A former town utility worker’s wrongful termination lawsuit against the town of Carbondale and his ex-boss has been set for an April 2008 trial in Garfield County District Court.
Tom McClelland, a water and wastewater department supervisor from November 2005 until he was let go in January 2006, filed a lawsuit in July of last year against the town and Carbondale Utilities Director Ed Fortner.
McClelland, through his Denver attorney Richard Dally, claims he was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on Fortner over an illegal deer poaching incident the previous fall, and use of public resources to get rid of the deer carcass.
According to the lawsuit, a town employee under McClelland’s supervision advised McClelland that Fortner had ordered town employees to dispose of the carcass using a town vehicle during work hours.
McClelland brought the matter up with Fortner, and Fortner later confronted McClelland in his office, shouting, “You should have never questioned me about that goddamn deer!”
Fortner also allegedly struck McClelland on the shoulder three times with a note pad, according to the lawsuit.
Another verbal exchange between the two over the matter occurred on Jan. 16, 2006. Four days later, McClelland said he was informed that he was being fired.
Around the same time, Fortner was cited by the Colorado Division of Wildlife over the deer poaching incident. He later pleaded guilty in Pitkin County Court and paid a fine.
McClelland also seeks relief for breach of contract, violation of the town’s employment and termination policies, physical assault and “intentional infliction of emotional harm,” among other claims.
“Defendants engaged in a pattern of conduct to target (McClelland) for termination after he reported upon and blew the whistle on Fortner’s deer poaching and violation of Carbondale policies and other laws … intended to cause emotional distress by outrageous conduct that was atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit says other unnamed town officials ignored McClelland’s wrongful termination claims in an effort to protect Fortner.
In another recent ruling in the case, McClelland’s motion to extend the time to name additional defendants was granted. Currently, only the town, Fortner and “John Does I-V” are named.
The town has denied the allegations in the lawsuit. The case is set for a five-day jury trial beginning April 28, 2008.
The wrongful termination case is one of two water/wastewater personnel actions pending against the town and Fortner. Utilities worker Rich Poulin has also filed an age discrimination claim, which is currently being reviewed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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