DECATUR — Two former employees filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Macon County and State’s Attorney Jay Scott alleging that they were wrongfully terminated after they reported misconduct. It's the second legal action against Scott by a former worker in the past two months.
In a 25-page complaint, Robyn Lewis and Leah Cone said they were let go from their jobs in July 2016 in retaliation for reporting that employees were working on Scott’s re-election campaign during office hours. County officials cited budget cuts as the reason, but the women say this was an excuse.
Scott said Tuesday evening that he was aware of the lawsuit but didn't want to comment on the pending legal action. He has previously denied allegations of misconduct made by Lewis and others.
This other federal lawsuit was filed May 21 by Amanda Maxwell Burger, the former personnel director for the office. Burger said she was wrongfully fired after she reported violations of state law and county policies. That lawsuit is pending.
Lewis had worked for Macon County since October 1994, and was a domestic violence coordinator and victim advocate at the time of her termination. Cone had worked for the county since 1997 and was a deferred prosecution coordinator when she was let go.
They are asking for the court to give them back their jobs with back pay, employee and pension benefits, or to pay them for salaries and benefits they would have earned if they were still employed.
Both said they were exposed to a hostile work environment, and that Macon County Chairman Jay Dunn and other county board members knew or should have known about those conditions. Dunn did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday evening.
The women said they told supervisors that Scott and others were violating state law that protects workers from discrimination and harassment, and also violating provisions of the county’s employee handbook with political activity in the workplace.
Greg Mattingley, then chairman of the board’s Justice Committee, and other senior managers confronted Scott about the allegations on July 7, 2016, the women said. Their employment was terminated the same day.
Mattingley declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday evening.
The lawsuit comes after a lengthy investigation into allegations of misconduct against Scott, starting in September 2016 when Mattingley and attorney John Davis sought a special prosecutor to look into Scott’s behavior.
Scott said in court documents that the claims against him were politically motivated. At the time, he was in the midst of a heated campaign as he prepared to face Republican Dan Hassinger in the November election. Scott defeated Hassinger to win a second term.
Burger and Lewis had both filed affidavits in support of the special prosecutor, detailing several instances in which they said Scott acted inappropriately.
These included an incident in which they said an employee and a victim’s family members were expecting to view evidence for a pending aggravated DUI case and instead saw a pornographic video. Scott was also accused of asking employees to shuttle his children in county-owned vehicles.
Bloomington attorney Stephanie Wong was appointed to act as the special prosecutor after months of consideration. She decided in February not to pursue criminal charges against Scott, but did make public a grand jury’s report that called the office work environment “toxic and threatening.” Scott, in turn, denounced the grand jury report as slanderous and unlawful.
Tony Reid of the Herald & Review contributed to this story.