Former Landis manager files lawsuit against town

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 5, 2020

LANDIS — Roger Hosey, who was fired as town manager by aldermen on Jan. 6, is seeking monetary damages for a breached contract in a lawsuit filed in Rowan County Superior Court, said his attorney Ellis Hankins.

The suit comes after town board members in January “breached the employment agreement by refusing to make the required payments after termination,” Hankins said in a statement provided Wednesday to the Post.

“We made repeated efforts to settle this dispute without litigation, including an offer of mediation. But the board majority refused to discuss a reasonable settlement in good faith, so they’ve left Mr. Hosey with no choice but to seek enforcement of his rights in court,” he said.

The suit also seeks damages, accusing Mayor Meredith Smith of slander, for statements that Hosey was terminated due to “just cause.”

Hosey was fired just five months after being named manager and one month after a new majority on the Landis Board of Aldermen — Mayor Meredith Smith as well as board members Katie Sells and Ashley Stewart — were sworn in. The three cast deciding votes in the 3-2 decision to fire Hosey and cited “just cause” as reason to fire him.

When Smith said, “We will terminate Mr. Hosey due to just cause,” it was defamatory and stigmatizing, Hankins said.

Hosey’s contract, which was updated by outgoing board members after the election in which Smith, Sells and Stewart won seats, stipulated that “just cause” meant a felony conviction or any crime of moral turpitude.

A termination not for “just cause,” according to his contract, entitles him to two months salary and benefits for each year or fraction of service to the town. Hosey has previously said he’s never been charged or convicted of a felony and town board members have not clarified what crime is relevant.

Hankins echoed Hosey’s prior statements on Wednesday.

“Mayor Smith was well aware of that provision in the employment agreement and knew that Mr. Hosey did nothing wrong and has never been accused of or convicted of any crime,” Hankins said. “Hosey has worked as a sworn law enforcement officer for most of his career and has a sterling reputation. So her public statement on behalf of the board majority was false and damaged his good reputation.”

The complaint names the town of Landis as a defendant, Smith, Stewart and Sells in their official and individual capacities. The complaint also names the other two aldermen who voted against terminating Hosey’s employment as defendants in their official capacities only and says neither are responsible for any of the acts asserted in the complaint.

Hankins is an attorney for the Brough Law Firm in Chapel Hill.