CHARLESTON – Two more former employees are suing the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office after they claim their employment was wrongfully terminated.
Thomas Ranson and Jeffrey Shriner were employed by the defendants beginning in May and August 2016, according to two complaints filed last month in Kanawha Circuit Court.
The plaintiffs claim they were employed as investigators and, during their employments, they consistently performed their duties in a satisfactory manner and met the defendant’s reasonable expectations.
On Jan. 16, 2017, the defendant willfully, maliciously and unlawfully terminated the employment of 16 employees, according to the suits.
The plaintiffs claim Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director for the Office of the WVSOS Mike Queen said that Secretary of State Mac Warner was “assuming each constitutional office [wa]s going to be asked to reduce its budget” and that they were “hoping we can demonstrate to the Legislature we’re operating more efficiently.”
Queen also stated that everybody has to try to become “more lean” and that Warner “will have his team on the ground ready to run, and do more with less, and do it the best we can,” according to the suits.
Steve Connolly, Warner’s chief counsel, informed Ranson and Shriner that the only reason they were still there was because they had not been there very long and that he did not want them in the office.
Following the termination of the 16 employees, the defendant hired 22 new employees and, approximate 3.5 months later, the defendant willfully, maliciously and unlawfully terminated the plaintiffs’ employment, according to the suits.
The plaintiffs claim the employees hired to replace them were not capable of performing or qualified to perform investigative work.
The defendant’s actions were reprehensible, willful, wanton, malicious and/or undertaken with blatant and intentional disregard of the rights owed to the plaintiffs.
Shriner, a registered Democrat, claims Kim Mason, the investigator hired to replace him, was a registered Republican.
The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are represented by Ben Salango and Brett J. Preston of Preston & Salango; and Mark A. Atkinson and John-Mark Atkinson of Atkinson & Polak.
In July, 10 other former employees filed similar wrongful termination suits against Warner. They also are being represented by Salango, Preston, Atkinson and Atkinson.
Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers: 18-C-26, 18-C-27