WHEELING – A former candidate for Ohio County assessor is suing the recently elected assessor, among others, alleging a hostile work environment and her eventual termination.
Katrina Anne Taylor filed her complaint Sept. 5 in Ohio Circuit Court against the Ohio County Commission, current Ohio County Assessor Tiffany Hoffman and Chief Deputy Assessor Michelle Powell.
According to her complaint, Taylor was hired by the assessor’s office in September 2007 as a part-time data collector. Soon, she became real estate secretary and later became Real Estate Office Manager. She says she performed all of her job duties in a satisfactory manner.
On July 11, 2016, the former assessor passed away unexpectedly, and Powell was named acting assessor until the November election was completed. Taylor ran against Hoffman in the election.
But, Taylor says she began experiencing problems at work as soon as the defendants learned she was running for the position.
“Plaintiff began suffering a hostile work environment created largely by defendant Powell, and contributed to by defendant Hoffman once she took office,” the complaint states. “Said hostile work environment included … withholding important paperwork from plaintiff which was needed to complete her job duties, refraining from turning in specific documentation to create an illusion that plaintiff was not sufficiently fulfilling her job requirements, and excluding her from the decision making process within the real estate office which had always been a part of her job description previously.”
Taylor says compensatory time she had earned by previously working overtime was taken away when Hoffman took office, and she says she was removed from the employee rotation for leaving early.
She also says she was written up for the first time in her time with the office in January 2017 for not maintaining her job performance and for complaints from taxpayers.
“Plaintiff was not provided information regarding the specific areas of her job that had been lacking nor was she provided the nature of said complaints or documentation regarding the same,” the complaint states, noting that she also was placed on probation. “But was not given a timeline or terms of said probation and no re-evaluation was done to determine when/if the probation period would conclude.”
Taylor says she filed a grievance, requesting a list of mistakes she allegedly had made, including documentation of complaints, a copy of the employee handbook and a copy of her employment file. She says she never was provided the documentation.
In February, Taylor says other employees were sent home early while she met with Hoffman and two others. In the meeting, Taylor was told she was being terminated “as they felt that due to her ‘mistakes’ it would cost more in the long run to keep her employed.”
Taylor says she again asked for documentation, “but still wasn’t provided an explanation of what mistakes had been made nor was she provided with documentation related to the same.”
Taylor says her freedom of speech, her freedom of association and her freedom of candidacy were denied by the defendants.
“There is no rational basis for (the defendants) to restrict plaintiff Taylor from running or campaigning for public office,” the complaint states.
Taylor seeks compensatory damages for her injuries, which include past lost wages, past lost benefits, future lost wages, future loss of benefits, financial distress, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, past anxiety and emotional distress, future anxiety and emotional distress, attorney fees, court costs and other relief. She also seek punitive damages.
She is represented by Erika Klie Kolenich and Karl Kolenich of the Klie Law Offices in Buckhannon. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge David J. Sims.
Ohio Circuit Court case number 17-C-253