Former Harpers Ferry clerk files wrongful termination suit

CHARLES TOWN – A former Harpers Ferry employee is suing the town alleging two officials conspired to concoct a story she misappropriated town funds so as to have grounds to fire her. Harpers Ferry Mayor James Arthur Addy and Treasurer Shauna Johnstone are named as co-defendants in a wrongful termination suit filed by Brenda V. Smith. In her complaint filed May 11 in Jefferson Circuit Court, Smith, 50, alleges Addy and Johnstone falsely accused her of misappropriating $150,000, and using it as pretext to fire her. According to the suit, Addy and Johnstone were the sources of an article in the May 11, 2011, edition of The Spirit of Jefferson and Farmers Advocate that Smith was recently terminated as town clerk "following the revelation that a large number of outstanding water bills have not been collected." According to the article, the amount was in excess of $150,000. Two days later, Johnstone reported to the town's insurance carrier, Travelers Casualty and Surety Company, the town " 'has discovered an employee has misappropriated funds'" in the amount of $150,000, and identified the employee as Smith. In a letter dated May 31, Travelers acknowledged the town incurred a loss due to an employee misappropriating funds. In her suit, Smith avers that Johnstone's statement to Travelers was false, and that no time during her employment with the town did she misappropriate funds. Also, neither Johnstone nor Addy have any "evidence of misappropriation of funds by [Smith] upon which to base [their] reports." Nevertheless, as result of her termination last year, Smith maintains she's had difficulty in finding new employment including those in the public sector which require her to qualify for an official bond. She alleges Addy's and Johnstone's actions have caused her to suffer "mental anguish, insult, indignity, public humiliation and severe emotional distress." Smith seeks unspecified damages, attorneys fees and court costs. She is represented by Harpers Ferry attorney Brett Offutt. The case is assigned to Judge David H. Saunders. Jefferson Circuit Court case number 12-C-178

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