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The Manchester Enterprise: News

Kids' Day this Saturday at Burchell Field

Kids’ Day, sponsored by the Manchester Christian Church and For Kids International, will be held this Saturday from noon to 5 p. m. at the Burchell Ball Field.

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Feds raid two Manchester pharmacies

Federal, state and local law enforcement officers descended on the Community Drug Pharmacy and the Medi Center Pharmacy in Manchester Monday, serving search warrants for potential drug-related wrongdoing. 

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Board wants committee to study school changes

The Clay County School Board Monday night agreed to form a sub-committee to study possible major changes in the schools including elimination of the middle school and building a new vocational school.

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Fire destroys Ham Hollow home

Fire destroyed the Ham Hollow home of Kenneth B. and Elizabeth Reid Tuesday.

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Negotiations held between health district board and dismissed director

A called meeting of the Cumberland Valley District Health Department last Thursday (September 6) evening was held in closed session for about an hour and a half while Kathy Fields and her attorney went in and out of the room.

Supporters of Fields told the Enterprise that negotiations were underway in an attempt to keep employment with the district until her retirement at the end of this year.

Fields was recently fired by the board for alleged mismanagement.  A state audit found, “…internal controls, management and board oversight are lacking.”  It also said that Fields was “unprofessional and uncooperative” with the auditors.

Also, the Enterprise has heard from a person knowledgeable of the work of Nursing Director Lisa Abner.

Abner was cited in the audit for working at Berea College while being paid full time at the district.

According to the source, Abner was working at the district only 100 hours a month, which permitted her to also work at the college.

In a separate matter, U. S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove has dismissed a suit against the district and Fields that had been filed by a former employee, Melissa Barrett.

A former director of nursing for the district’s Home Health Agency, Barrett was fired by Fields in September 2009 for allegedly telling Home Health employees that the agency was to be sold, and that she “pressured…employees to ‘vote’ to leave” the district.

Barrett appealed her dismissal to a hearing officer, but lost the appeal.

She then filed the civil suit in federal court saying that her First Amendment right of free speech was violated.

In his order, Van Tatenhove said that Barrett had to do three things to prove her case.

“In order to succeed on her retaliatory discharge claim based on violations of the First Amendment, Barrett must satisfy three elements,” the judge said.  “First, she must prove that her speech was protected under the Constitution.  Second, she must demonstrate that she suffered an adverse employment action.  Third, she is required to prove causation: the adverse action must have been motivated, at least partially, by the exercise of protected speech.”

Citing case law, Van Tatenhove said that an employee in such a matter, “must have spoken as a private citizen rather than as an employee;” that “the speech at issue must address a matter of public concern:” and, “the interest of the employee in speaking must outweigh ‘the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees.’”

The judge found, “When examining the focus of the relevant speech at issue here, it is plain that only an internal non-public issue was implicated.  Barrett conducted the meeting with fellow employees to discuss the impact a potential sale would have on those employees’ jobs; an entirely internal and private concern.”

He referred to a U. S. Supreme Court ruling, when he said, “Employee benefits and the viability of a specific individual’s continued employment are the exact type of personal interests and internal matters the Supreme Court rejected as entitling speech to constitutional protection.”

Van Tatenhove concluded by saying, “…the subject of Barrett’s speech was a matter of private internal interest only.  There was no political or larger social interest in whether employees within Home Health lost retirement benefits or if their working conditions changed.  As a result, the defendants wee free to terminate Barrett relying on those statements as they saw fit without incurring liability…”

The district’s and Field’s motion for summary judgment was granted.  Barrett’s claim was dismissed, and her motion for partial summary judgment was denied.

The judge said Barrett could pursue in state courts a claim of outrage.

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Page 127 of 238

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