2018-06-07 / Views

Lack of respect obvious in fired clerk’s lawsuit

There is no good way to fire somebody.

And with employment law being what it is, the legal window for terminating someone’s employment is extremely narrow.

But there is a civil way to let an employee go. The lawsuit filed by former Empire Village clerk Traci Cruz points to disrespect from her bosses, the Empire Village Council, even if nothing else comes of it.

We’re not here to pick apart or support the legal arguments within the lawsuit. Those decisions may rest with a jury, or more likely will become fodder for negotiation and possibly arbitration.

But it’s obvious that Ms. Cruz and certain council members, notably trustee Teresa Howes and president Sam Barr, did not get along.

Ms. Cruz alleges in the suit that she inherited a mess with the village books. The council hired an outside auditor to bring them up to date. So she started on the wrong foot.

We were surprised that one of the sticking points was whether township residents residing outside of the village should be provided free parking stickers for the Empire beach. Ms. Cruz thought not; a majority of council members thought yes. She clashed with Mr. Barr at the meeting in what the suit states turned into an “outrageous barrage against the plaintiff.”

For what it’s worth, it does seem that a parking policy would fall under the auspices of the council, not an appointed clerk. But knowing how to express a political point with respect was, apparently, a lost art that evening in Empire.

There was no mending fences after that meeting, held on Dec. 14, 2017. Relationships completely unraveled at the height of the village budget process with Mr. Barr suspending the clerk on Feb. 25. Ms. Cruz was fired on April 18 through a split vote of the council.

Again, we’re not taking sides over whether the firing was legal. By that time a complete split was necessary. You can’t go back.

But if there were financial mistakes, those always can be corrected. It’s the emotional and very public actions leading up to the official “divorce” that cannot be taken back.

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