County accused of wrongful termination

A former courthouse custodian has filed a wrongful termination suit against the Clark County Fiscal Court, Judge-Executive Henry Branham and four magistrates alleging she was terminated because she reported a verbal abuse situation.

An attorney for Nichole Lainhart filed the suit Friday in Clark Circuit Court.

In the suit, Lainhart said she witnessed a verbal altercation between Clark County Attorney Brian Thomas and a female fiscal court employee in Branham’s office June 22.

Lainhart said Thomas began to “engage in verbally abusive behavior” toward the unnamed employee, calling her “little girl” and telling her not to come to his office again.

Following the incident, Lainhart said the employee told her she would rather resign than deal with such behavior.

Lainhart claims Thomas, as the elected county attorney, had no authority over the employee.

Lainhart said the incident was reported to Branham and she spoke with a magistrate of the fiscal court, who was not identified in the suit, about how to proceed. She said the magistrate told her on July 6 it would be reported to Branham, who would pursue further action.

On July 10, Lainhart said she made a post on social media before beginning her work day saying she expected to be fired the following day as she planned to bring the situation before the fiscal court during a meeting.

At the end of the day, Lainhart said Branham confronted her and said she violated the county’s social media policy and was sent home while the matter was investigated.

The following morning, Branham gave her a letter, in front of Thomas, detailing several job performance issues and stating she would be terminated.

Lainhart did speak during the fiscal court’s meeting, but was officially terminated at the end of the meeting following a closed session.

The court approved the termination with a 5-2 vote. magistrates Daniel Konstantopoulos and Greg Elkins, who were not named as defendants in the suit, voted against the termination.

Lainhart said the vote was not taken in good faith and was retaliation against her for speaking about the situation involving Thomas.

Wednesday, Branham, Blackburn and Blanton each said they had not been served with the lawsuit yet. Blackburn and Blanton also said they were not aware of the suit at all.

Thomas, who was not named as a defendant in the suit, referred questions to an attorney with the Kentucky Association of Counties, which will represent the county.

Lainhart is seeking unspecified financial damages, punitive damages and court costs.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@bluegrassnewsmedia.com or call 859-759-0051.

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