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City may settle with fired clerk
Mediation in Judy McCorkle dismissal held
McCorkle photo
Judy McCorkle - photo by FILE
    Legal representation for the City of Statesboro and former City Clerk Judy McCorkle met Tuesday to mediate a potential claim of wrongful termination.
    “The city participated in a mediation with Judy McCorkle and her lawyer today,” said Pat O’Connor, the attorney representing the city. “That’s all I can say.”
    McCorkle, who also acted as the city’s director of finance and administration as well as the supervisor of elections, was terminated Sept. 1, 2008, after serving the city for nearly 16 years.
    In documents obtained by the Herald, McCorkle’s lawyer contacted the city earlier this year in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution, short of litigation, citing McCorkle’s belief that she was wrongfully and improperly terminated.
    McCorkle claims her termination was not done through proper channels, citing the Personnel Policy of the city. She also claims her replacement was named prematurely, during her appeals process, which abridged her right to due process. In addition, she is claiming she was improperly terminated for whistle blowing activity, specifically that she notified officials, as per the Statesboro Code of Ethics, of “resume falsification by the City Manager, non-compliance of audit requirements for liquor license(s) by a council person and a failure of a council person to file reports with the States Ethics commission.”
    She was seeking $1,165,000 in damages to account for “back pay, some front pay, retirement benefits, health and life insurance benefits as well as emotional distress and reputational damages.” At this point, McCorkle has not filed a lawsuit in federal court.
    O’Connor is a managing partner at the law firm of Oliver Maner LLP in Savannah. He was hired by the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency, which is the entity that provides property and liability insurance coverage for the city. GIRMA is administered by the Georgia Municipal Administration.
    Officials did not reveal whether a proposal had been reached at the mediation. If a proposal to settle has been reached, it will then be presented to city council for discussion during an executive session. However, should the council wish to accept or deny the proposal, it would have to be voted on during the public portion of a council meeting.
    Whether or not the council approves a proposal, GIRMA will still make sure the decision is both in the best interest of the city as well as the entire membership.
    Councilman Will Britt, who was named in the communication between the city and McCorkle’s lawyer, is concerned that the parties involved may be coming to a hasty resolution.
    “I’m concerned that the mediation process has been abbreviated such that our representatives may have acquiesced prematurely due to familiarity with the plaintiff,” Britt said. “This issue should go to trial for the public’s best interest.”
    Another past employee, former City Engineer Maz Elhaj, has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Federal District court, specifically the Middle District of Georgia located in Albany. Elhaj was demoted to assistant city engineer in Oct. 2008.
    In a communication between Elhaj’s attorney, Gary Kessler, and the city discussing his potential claim, Elhaj alleges his termination was illegal, discriminatory and race-based. That communication also stated Elhaj would be willing to settle the matter for two years’ severance and benefits at the salary rate of city engineer, continued employment status for two years, entitlement to early retirement status and benefits at age 55, compensatory and punitive damages of $350,000, in addition to attorney’s fees.
    The Herald has yet to obtain a copy of the filed claim, so these figures may have changed in the claim submitted to the district court.
    O’Connor said the city has already filed an answer to the claim as well as a motion to change the venue from the Middle District to the Southern District, Statesboro Division. Decision on that motion is pending.

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