Former Weston financial manager sues city over firing; alleges “plot to unlawfully terminate”

Lewis

WESTON, W.Va. – The former financial manager for the City of Weston is suing the city, Mayor Kim Harrison and city council members Gary Foster and Randy Bohan over allegations the trio conspired to have her terminated.

This is the second lawsuit against the city this week.

According to the lawsuit, Delphia “Dodie” Arbogast began working for the city in May 2016 as its financial manager. The lawsuit states that Harrison, Foster and Bohan each took office in July 2019.

The lawsuit alleges that prior to their taking office, in October 2017, Foster and Bohan publicly displayed their “disdain, hatred and animosity” toward the previous city administration, as well as non-elected employees, including Arbogast, via social media messages and comments.

The lawsuit states that on November 19, 2017, Bohan posted the following comment on Facebook:

“Weston City Government has a serious problem in regards to ‘pecking order’. Recognizing this a few months ago is what caused me to add a signature line to my email transmissions, similar to the scripture I have been subjected to corresponding with the finance department, ‘Nothing is more diseased than a house divided’ The house of cards will fall.”

Alleged comment attributed to Randy Bohan

Further, the lawsuit alleges that on December 29, 2018, Foster posted the following:

“She’s evil. She had ZERO experience as a public employee and has tried to ruin people that may question her. Then she goes to Broad Street church and has scripture on the bottom of her emails. The wolf in sheep’s clothing. BEWARE”

Alleged comment attributed to Gary Foster

The lawsuit claims that Harrison resented the fact that Arbogast had been hired under the previous city administration and wanted to fire her because of her association with the previous administration. After Harrison, Foster and Bohan were elected and sworn in in 2019, they began conducting public business behind closed doors, according to the lawsuit.

On August 5, 2019, during a regular city council meeting, a motion was made that Arbogast be retained as a city employee, which received a second. The lawsuit claims that Foster and Bohan voted against her retention, causing a 2-2 tie, which Harrison then broke. At no time was Arbogast’s employment discussed or debated in an open setting, nor was there an executive session or a special or emergency meeting. Arbogast was not given a chance to request that her employment be discussed or debated in an open meeting, according to the lawsuit.

There are four counts listed in the lawsuit against the defendants.

  • Count I is an accusation of civil conspiracy, in which Arbogast alleges that Harrison, Foster and Bohan worked together to use their positions to retaliate against her and terminate her.
  • Count II is an accusation of violations of the Open Meetings Act, in which Arbogast alleges that the defendants violated state code, specifically, the Open Governmental Proceedings Act, by conducting private meetings to transact public business.
  • Count III is an accusation of wrongful discharge in violation of substantial public policy, in which Arbogast alleges that the defendants retaliated against her for her political affiliation with one or more political opponents of theirs and/or the previous city administration. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that while acting within her duties to collect taxes and fees on behalf of the city, Arbogast attempted to collect such fees from Bohan. Bohan did not pay these fees, which led to a lien being field against property Bohan owned, in the amount of $1,227.49, according to the lawsuit.
  • Count IV is an accusation of wrongful and discriminatory discharge due to religion, in which Arbogast alleges the defendants decided to terminate her, in whole or in part, because of her Christian faith, in violation of state code.

Arbogast is seeking front pay, including pension and other benefits; back pay; damages for embarrassment, humiliation, annoyance, inconvenience, loss of dignity and emotional distress; punitive damages; legal fees; and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. She is requesting a jury trial.

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