Two employees to appeal

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Two former Crossroads Community Services Board employees have filed notices of appeal regarding their suits against the agency, its executive director and board chairman. The notices of appeal seek to take the matters to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

In a recent court order, Circuit Court Judge Joseph M. Teffey Jr. effectively dismissed civil suits filed by four former Crossroads employees: Coordinator of Nursing Services Cynthia Morris, Office Manager Laura Baldwin, Substance Abuse Coordinator and Substance Abuse Director Jonathan Crawford and Director of Long-Term Care Marina Sinyard.

According to a letter from attorney Harris D. Butler III, who filed the request on behalf of Crawford and Sinyard, the two are requesting the appealed cases to be filed in Prince Edward Circuit Court. They filed the appeal Thursday.

In his ruling, Teffy directed the clerk of court to remove certain matters pertaining to the lawsuits from the docket. His decision was based on demurrers filed by attorneys representing Crossroads Community Services Board Chairman Sidney Smyth, Crossroads Executive Director Dr. Susan Baker and the board itself. The demurrers were part of documents filed months ago in responses to claims made by the employees.

“Our positions have been outlined in the prior Prince Edward County Circuit Court filings opposing the defendants’ motions and demurrers, and will be further outlined in our papers seeking review by the Virginia Supreme Court,” Butler said. “We expect to file that within the next 60 days.”

According to the Code of Virginia, a demurrer contends a pleading does not state a cause of action or claims the pleading fails to state facts upon which the relief demanded can be granted.

The former employees’ lawsuits, filed in Prince Edward Circuit Court, claimed they were terminated by Baker on Jan. 20 as part of what she called a “reduction in force” in retaliation for complaints lodged against the agency. The four were seeking actual damages of $300,000, punitive damages of $500,000 against Baker and Smyth individually, non-economic compensatory damages, back pay, monetary equivalent of the value of their future employment, litigation costs and reinstatement with full seniority status. The four suits also demanded a jury trial.

In their responses, Baker, Smyth and the agency denied all claims filed against them by the former employees, asking them to be dismissed.

In his 17-page order, addressing each claim by the plaintiffs, Teefey stated many times that the allegations against the defendants failed to state claims, noting Baker’s and Smyth’s alleged actions were not actionable “as defamation.”