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Former manager George to file complaint against Tyrone Boro

Thursday afternoon, former Tyrone borough manager Nathan George and Mayor Patricia Stoner were left in a courtroom to wait out a closed-door session conducted by Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle.
The session was held with attorneys for both sides of an employment dispute which developed between the borough and its former manager as a result of his firing last month.
A hearing was scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. in Judge Doyle’s courtroom to decide a variety of motions which had been filed by both parties regarding the dispute. Instead, the court clerk asked the attorneys to meet privately with the judge.
After about 25 minutes, solicitor Larry Clapper and Pittsburgh-based attorney Robert Durrant emerged from the judge’s chambers. Clapper told the mayor, “we’re done, we can go.”
Durrant explained Judge Doyle mediated an agreement which directed the plaintiff in the case to file suit. Clapper was asked if he had any additional comment and indicated he didn’t have anything to add to Durrant’s brief statement.
George was terminated by the borough “with cause” at a special meeting on June 11. However, George contended he was fired during an executive session on June 8, in violation of state Sunshine Laws which require official actions by agencies be taken in public. He also indicated he believed the borough violated its own home rule charter as he believed his firing was without cause. He previously indicated he felt the borough’s actions were “retaliatory” and he had been prevented from performing his duties and exercising powers granted to him under the charter.
George did indicate he had some awareness about the borough’s reasons behind its pending action during public comments he made prior to the vote on June 11. He said he had been told it was due to borough morale, personnel and project issues.
Recent court filings on behalf on the borough revealed a memo addressed to George dated May 13. The memo from solicitor Larry Clapper outlined specifics regarding George’s performance as it related to morale, personnel and progress on issues the borough had deemed priorities. The memo indicated George had 30 days to remedy the issues or his relationship with the borough would have to be “seriously considered.”
George had sought borough records including meeting minutes, electronic recordings, possible notes of executive sessions and folders left at George’s work area which he believed might have relevance in his case. A protective order was also sought to prevent the altering or destruction of the documentation.
Judge Doyle had been asked to rule if the borough had to turn over the information before an actual complaint was filed on George’s behalf. Attorney Joseph Cavrich had entered a writ of summons on George’s behalf to put the borough on notice of a pending suit. The move allows someone to show their intention of filing suit without having to present all the details.
Cavrich explained parties often use the procedure in order to obtain information it feels it needs before showing the reasons for a suit. In filings made earlier this week, the borough asked for a protective order of its own regarding Cavrich’s attempts to obtain documents pre-complaint. It contended the maneuver was not being used properly, since the plaintiff and his attorney had already outlined nine different “causes of action” against the borough in a June 18 letter.
Durrant indicated the plaintiff already knew why he wanted to file suit and shouldn’t be entitled to the pre-complaint “discovery” information. The agreement hammered out yesterday seemed to favor the borough on the issue.
Cavrich explained his client’s options at this stage of the employment dispute. He can drop the suit, reach a settlement or (file suit and) go to the end of the process and (seek to) get damages,” said Cavrich.
Cavrich explained he now intends to file a complaint without the benefit of the information ahead of time.
“Nathan does intend to file a complaint, we are going to request a preliminary injunction based on Sunshine Act violations,” Cavrich told The Daily Herald.
Cavrich explained George is seeking to be reinstated to his position. George contended he was asked to sign a letter of resignation and a release during a June 8 executive session. He indicated he declined to sign either and was escorted from the municipal building.
“The judge can either grant or deny the temporary order,” said Cavrich. He can either be reinstated or an order can also be issued preventing the borough from hiring a new manager until the conclusion of the case.
“After the hearing on the injunction, the case will proceed regarding the other allegations or ‘causes of action,’” said Cavrich.
He explained he will seek documents and other information he believes are pertinent to the case with the request for the preliminary injunction. He expects to file the complaint at the same time as the preliminary injunction request. The actions may occur within the next two or three week if not sooner, according to Cavrich.
He explained he thought he was on firm ground regarding the legal standard for which information can be sought in a legal proceeding.
“I’m confident (the documents and other information) are reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence,” said Cavrich.
George’s attorney is also seeking to have individual members of borough council and the mayor answer written questions regarding the dispute. Legal documents filed by the borough indicated Cavrich is also attempted to have the borough’s solicitor (Clapper) disposed in the matter.
Although Cavrich made it clear what his next moves are in the case, the borough and its attorneys, as noted earlier, offered limited comment about yesterday’s mediation. Borough officials had been advised not to comment on the dispute. The borough had issued only one previous statement, in addition to outlining its position in recent legal filings and documentation.
The borough also had sought to limit Cavrich comments to the media about the case. It called into question Cavrich’s ethics in legal papers filed earlier this week.
The judge did not issue any rulings after yesterday’s meeting according to Cavrich. So, it would appear based on his latest comments he is still free to discuss the case with the media. However, his client (George) has recently referred most questions to Cavrich and offered no comment about the dispute based on his attorney’s advice.