Attorneys answer Madden lawsuit
Attorneys for the Clark County Fiscal Court and County Attorney William Elkins have filed an answer to former Treasurer Jerry Madden’s wrongful termination and defamation suit asking the circuit judge to dismiss the case against their clients.
Madden was fired March 11, 2020 based on allegations that he misled county officials about transfer of $7,996. He claims the allegations damaged his reputation and his ability to get another job, although he went to work for the Clark County Clerk’s Office almost immediately after his dismissal and is still employed there, doing work similar to what he was doing as the county’s treasurer and finance officer.
In their 13-page response to Madden’s complaint filed with the Clark Circuit Court, attorneys D. Barry Stilz and Lynn Sowards Zellen of the Lexington law firm Kincaid & Stiltz are asking that the court dismiss the claim with prejudice for failure to state a valid claim.
When a court dismisses a complaint with prejudice, it means the court has made a final determination on the merits of the case, and the plaintiff is therefore forbidden from filing another lawsuit based on the same grounds.
Madden told county officials he had overlooked a purchase order in February of last year, which had caused an account to be overdrawn. He then made a transfer to cover the amount, which was supposed to have been approved at the Feb. 27 Fiscal Court meeting, but the court canceled the meeting and didn’t meet again until March 3. Madden asked that the transfer be approved retroactively, but was told by the county attorney that state law prohibits retroactive transfers and transfers without Fiscal Court approval. Madden’s computer hard drive was seized, and Madden was fired as treasurer, but no similar action was taken to fire him as director of finance, according to the lawsuit.
Madden claims he was following County Judge-Executive Chris Pace’s orders.
The former treasurer is suing the Fiscal Court and its members, individually and as elected officials, for wrongful termination and Elkins for defamation.
The Fiscal Court members named in the lawsuit are Magistrates Greg Elkins, Chris Davis, Joe Graham, Daniel Konstantopoulous. Pace is not named individually as a defendant.
On April 1, the lawyers for the defendants argued that even under the “liberal standard” of precedent cited in other court cases, “there is no set of facts upon which Madden could obtain relief for wrongful termination or against William Elkins for defamation.”
They also argue that Madden’s wrongful termination claims against the Fiscal Court and its members are barred by sovereign immunity, a legal philosophy involving the shielding of the state against lawsuits.
They also argue that the plaintiff fails to state a claim for wrongful termination based on the Clark County Administrative Code and Kentucky statute KRS 67.710 and KRS 78.010.
They point out that in Kentucky, employees can generally be terminated at will, and that Madden did not have an employment contract.
The response also states that the defamation claim against Elkins is barred by sovereign immunity.
The defense attorneys say that at the March 3 Fiscal Court meeting, Elkins did not accuse Madden of criminal conduct; he only advised the magistrates that approval of the transfer could not be made retroactively and without their consent.