Landis officials say they will ‘vigorously defend’ town against fired manager’s lawsuit

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 8, 2020

By Liz Moomey

LANDIS — The town’s mayor and interim town manager say they disagree with claims made by former manager Roger Hosey, who last week filed a lawsuit against the town.

Hosey is seeking monetary damages for a breached contract in a lawsuit filed in Rowan County Superior Court on Wednesday. He was fired at the Jan. 6 Landis aldermen meeting in a 3-2 vote. Mayor Meredith Smith, Mayor Pro Tem Ashley Stewart and alderwoman Katie Sells voted in favor of removing him, with Smith citing it being “due to just cause.”

The lawsuit states the phrase “due to just cause” is false and that’s known by the defendants, the town and the three board members. The phrase, according to his contract, implies Hosey “had been convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude, or other fraudulent or dishonest conduct or neglect of duty.”

“Just cause” was a phrase in Hosey’s employment contract that stipulated he deserved severance pay if he was terminated without cause. And the definition of “just cause” was updated at a Dec. 9 meeting before the new board was sworn in.

“Just cause” in December was defined as conviction of a felony or conviction of any crime involving moral turpitude. In his original contract, it was defined as fraud, embezzlement, willful neglect of duty, conviction of any crime involving moral turpitude, violation of duties to town of honesty and sobriety or any other acts of a similar nature or of the same or greater seriousness.

Interim Town Manager Leonard Barefoot said he intends to “vigorously defend” the town and the board members. Barefoot said the town disagrees with Hosey’s claims, but he would not comment specifically on the case.

Smith said the complaint Hosey filed and statements to the press and social media are targeted to her and other board members who did not agree with Hosey.

She said board members are confident they have good defenses to Hosey’s allegations and welcome the opportunity to let the court decide.

The town has referred the lawsuit to an outside council, Robin Davis, an attorney at Raleigh-based Jackson Lewis. According to her bio, Davis advises and represents cities, towns, counties, boards and other public and quasi-public agencies throughout the state on employment and personnel matters specific to public/governmental employers, including due process claims, constitutional torts, open meeting laws, public records laws and grievance hearings.

Hosey’s employee contract stated that, if the manager is terminated or asked to resign without just cause, he should be given two months salary and benefits for each year of service with the town. The updated contract also added sick time to a list of fringe benefits. The contract also stated, “Manager shall be entitled to pay for any accrued holiday time, sick time and vacation time in addition to any severance which may be due.”

A copy of the lawsuit obtained by the Post details the exact amounts Hosey believes he’s owed: $433,716.24. That would include: $188,500 in severance pay, $74,072.56 for unpaid vacation, $73,118.74 for unpaid sick leave, $16,784.56 for 401K, $32,562.06 for retirement, $20,678.32 for health insurance, $13,000 for a vehicle and $15,000 for tuition.

Under the original, August agreement, the suit says he is owed $336,849.05. The amount includes $188,500.00 for severance pay, $74,072.56 for unpaid vacation, $13,128.63 for 401K, $25,469.54 for retirement, $20,678.32 for health insurance and $15,000 for tuition.

The town paid him $13,268.48 on Jan. 31 for vacation time owed, according Hosey.

Barefoot said Hosey was treated like any other employee and was given pay for the work he did and any unused vacation.

Barefoot said the town has insurance for municipal liabilities if the suit does not end favorably for the town.