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Court document reveals Tyrone put former manager on notice about his performance

A document filed in Blair County Court on behalf of Tyrone Borough gives the first clues behind the municipality’s reasoning for axing its former manager Nathan George.
He was fired at a special public meeting on June 11; exactly 30 days after receiving a memo from borough solicitor Larry Clapper regarding his performance as a borough manager.
George contended he was fired in executive session on June 8 in violation of state Sunshine Laws which require agencies to take official action in open session. He also claimed the borough actions were “retaliatory” and it was also in violation of its own home rule charter. George charged the borough didn’t let him do his job as prescribed under the charter.
Previously, the borough had issued only one official statement on the issue. The release disputed George’s claims and contended the borough had not violated either Sunshine Laws or its charter. It also noted his termination was “with cause effective immediately.” The terminology was used in a motion made by council which led to the vote on June 11.
A May 13 memo to George indicates his performance was under evaluation and had been discussed with him.
Although, George did not reference the memo during public comment he gave prior to his firing, he did indicate he had been informed the borough’s potential action was related to borough morale, personnel and project issues.
The memo noted, George was informed prior to his hiring, during his interview process, he was expected to “work to develop good relationships with borough employees which in turn would foster a spirit of morale.”
George came to Tyrone from Nebraska after being hired in December of 2003 and starting in employment in January of 2004.
Within just months after he assumed the position, George was told in the memo, “It appears that there is a major crisis in your relationship with key personnel and department heads.”
The memo noted that George had called an executive session to discuss his relationship with borough employees including the borough’s secretary, Kim Murray.
According to the memo, at one point George had issued a set or written instructions to Murray and was told by George to sign it or face termination. The incident happened sometime after George was instructed by council to sit down with Murray and resolve the issues.
The memo also said there were issues involving other employees which led some to be “in fear of losing their jobs” due to statements made by George. The chief of police indicated he was looking for other work due to the situation.
One council member indicated, “the borough (was) unable to function given the atmosphere which was created.”
The borough’s petition to the court said, “council came to view the plaintiff (George) as an autocrat, who attempted to manage by terrorizing his subordinates and who failed to achieve closure on important projects.”
The memo indicated George was also put on notice regarding council’s displeasure at the lack of progress being made on certain items which it had asked the former manager to make a priority. These included working on job descriptions and the Streetscape and the Washington Avenue infrastructure project.
Mayor Patricia Stoner suffered an illness in March and the memo indicated there had been a lack of progress regarding the projects during her absence. The memo indicated there was a “fear” some of the projects would not get funding due to the lack of progress.
George was put on notice to remedy the personnel and project problems within 30 days. He was also told council intended to reevaluate him and if the issues weren’t resolved to council’s satisfaction his “relationship with the borough (would) have to be seriously considered.”
The borough did take action when it fired George on June 11. Two weeks after the firing, George’s attorney Joseph Cavrich filed a writ of summons to put the borough on notice of his client’s intention to pursue further action. The writ allowed Cavrich to essentially file the suit without having to reveal all his cards.
He explained a writ is used when a party in a legal case might still need to collect certain documentation or in legal terms, discovery before revealing the basis of a lawsuit.
Among the motions filed in court on June 25, Cavrich asked for a protective order to prevent the borough from destroying or altering certain materials. Those materials included meeting minutes, electronic recordings, notes about executive sessions and certain folders which apparently contain documents which George and his attorney believe are relevant to the case.
Cavrich is also seeking to have the defendants in this case, the borough, its mayor and the individual members of council, respond to questions regarding the dispute.
The court documents filed on behalf on the borough seek to challenge the need for the plaintiff to obtain the information prior to the complaint. The borough is seeking its own protective order to prevent George and his attorneys from receiving the discovery evidence. It contends a June 18 letter sent by Cavrich to their attorneys already outlined nine different “causes of action.”
A Pittsburgh-based law firm, Campbell, Durrant and Beatty filed the motions earlier this week ahead of a hearing scheduled for tomorrow before Blair County Court of Common Pleas Judge Elizabeth Doyle.
Yesterday, attorney Robert Durrant said the plaintiff in the case already knows the reasons why he might file suit and does not need the pre-complaint information to proceed. Durrant indicated the plaintiff should either decide to file suit or not without having the benefit of the additional evidence.
It is believed all the motions in the case will be consolidated and heard before the court at tomorrow’s hearing which originally was scheduled to make a determination regarding the protective order sought by George and his counsel.
The borough is also seeking a ruling regarding statements made by Cavrich to the media. It contends he may not be following ethics rules regarding attorney’s statements to the media.