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Published: Thursday, 8/14/2003

Sylvania Township sued by ex-worker

A former Sylvania Township employee has filed suit against the township, claiming she was fired after she exposed an alleged affair between her boss, who is the township's administrator, and the township zoning inspector, who was her friend.

Claudia Lay of Sylvania is seeking $4 million in damages in the suit filed Monday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Ms. Lay was hired in February, 2002, as an assistant in the township's zoning department. She was fired in December by the township trustees for alleged excessive absenteeism, according to the suit.

Also named in the suit are trustees Richard Moses, Dennis Boyle, and James Schwerkowske; administrator Brad Peebles, and Mary Lou O'Mara, the township's zoning and development department manager and zoning inspector.

Ms. Lay declined to comment.

“She feels wronged by what happened to her, and what happened wasn't right. That's why she filed the lawsuit,” Kevin Greenfield, her attorney, said.

Mr. Peebles and Mrs. O'Mara also declined comment.

“There are two sides to every story. To my knowledge, it's just not true. These are things you have to deal with. You haven't any choice,” Mr. Moses said.

Added Tim Greenwood, the township's attorney: “We obviously take any lawsuit involving the township very seriously. We'll review it, we'll evaluate it, and we'll file an appropriate response.”

In the suit, Ms. Lay said she was a good friend of Mrs. O'Mara's before she was hired to work for Mrs. O'Mara and Mr. Peebles. Ms. Lay said she was placed in an uncomfortable situation when Mrs. O'Mara, who is married, confided in her that she had developed a romantic relationship last fall with Mr. Peebles, who also is married.

Ms. Lay said in her suit that after Mr. Peebles found out she knew about the relationship, he and Mrs. O'Mara began to verbally abuse her at the office. As a result of the stress and anxiety related to the situation at work, Ms. Lay alleges she contracted shingles and missed work in December.

She intended to take a medical leave of absence and also tell then-Administrator Jim Maxwell about the alleged relationship between Mr. Peebles and Mrs. O'Mara. But she was informed in a letter from Mr. Peebles in mid-December that the trustees had fired her for missing too much work, the suit said.

Ms. Lay is asking for $3 million in punitive and $1 million in compensatory damages.

According to the suit, Ms. Lay is unemployed and suffers from anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder. She alleges that her treatment by the defendants was “willful, malicious, and done in bad faith.”

Mr. Peebles, a former Fulton County commissioner, was hired in April, 2001, as township zoning inspector and economic development manager. Mrs. O'Mara was then working as an assistant to then-zoning inspector Robert Sabo. Mr. Peebles was named administrator in January after the trustees fired Mr. Maxwell. Mr. Peebles has retained his development duties. Ms. O'Mara was elevated to zoning inspector after Mr. Peebles was named administrator.

Over a 14-month period beginning in December, 2001, six township administration employees were fired by the trustees: Ms. Lay, Mr. Sabo, Mr. Maxwell, Shelly Bubacz, Carrie Wawrzyniak, and Heather Sayler.

Ms. Bubacz filed suit against the township in May, 2002. The case was later dismissed, Mr. Moses said. Still pending is a suit Mr. Sabo filed against the township last year.

Mr. Moses said the township office under Mr. Peeble's direction has improved considerably.

“You can't believe how unorganized everything was [be- fore]. Everything was done that was needed to be done. Now it's running like a business should. Right now, we have a fine-tuned office,” he said.



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