Town of Elkton Sued by EEOC for Age Discrimination

Press Release From the EEOC -

BALTIMORE – The town of Elkton, Md., the county seat for Cecil County, violated federal law when it fired a the assistant town administrator/finance director because of his age, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

According to EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 1-10-cv-2541-JFM, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division), the town of Elkton fired Andrew P. Johnson because of his age, 70. Johnson, who was hired in January 1999 as the assistant town administrator and finance director, was described in his performance evaluations by his supervisor, the town administrator, as “innovative” and “aggressive” in his performance. Through Johnson’s efforts, the Town of Elkton received a national award for excellence in accounting. He instituted initiatives to aggressively collect funds owed to the town, thereby increasing its revenues. He was replaced by two younger individuals, one in her twenties and the other in his forties.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The complaint seeks monetary and injunctive relief, including back wages, liquidated damages and changes in employment policies to eliminate future age-based discrimination.

“Ageism is a way of stereotyping and marginalizing people – it is unjust and illegal,” said Regional Attorney Debra S. Lawrence of EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which has jurisdiction over Maryland. “Employers have a responsibility to provide everyone the freedom to compete fairly in the workplace regardless of age.”

During fiscal year 2009, there were 22,778 age discrimination charges filed with the EEOC.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

Editor’s Note:  Look for additonal reports, as we work on this breaking news story about the latest in a series of lawsuits involving the Town of Elkton.  Someone Noticed is seeking comments from a number of involved parties, including Mayor Joseph Fisona, the town adminsitrator,  the EEOC and others. 

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15 responses to “Town of Elkton Sued by EEOC for Age Discrimination

  1. Another Joe Fisona lawsuit, say it ain’t so Joe. He wants to go down in history ok but he is going down as the one that nearly taxed us to death and cost the town a fortune in lawsuits. How the hell could Joe get in so many lawsuits and loose all of them. Tell me what is up with this. People are talking Joe and want to know what is going on with this. Don’t you know anymore at this blog site.

  2. Fred:

    We have calls out for the mayor and the town administrator (as well as emails) to get the town’s response to this, but thus far they’ve not returned our calls.

    Whatever the case, we’re working on the story from a number of angles and will have lots more news to supplement the rumors around town, soon. But hopefully Elkton officials will share their side of the story with the news media too.

    There are a number of angles to approch these stories while we wait for a response from the plaintiffs. The legal pleadings and filings contain the allegations in detail so we’ll fully have that EEOC side of the story and Mr. Johnson’s in full, plus there’s public affairs from EEOC and a number of other sources. Still it wouldbe good to get the town’s response since there are so many rumors out there.

  3. Fred: On your assessment of history, your assumption seems accurate as far as Mayor Fisona’s administration have the most law suits in the history of the town. One has to ask why there are so many now and why the town doesn’t anticipate some of these problems ahead of time so they don’t have these troubles. The lawsuit with the senior housing was a class. Anyone watching that knew they were headed down the wrong path legally from the moment they started brushing aside their laws, which was the very first night they discussed it in public in a workshop. Why they just disregarded the laws on their own books and that was with emails, memos and discussions with staff, as the professionals recommended caution in pushing ahead and violating municipal ordinances. But, as the judge said, they really wanted this and were going to do it no matter what. Of course, that was until a couple of taxpayers hauled them into court. But there are plenty of other lawsuits in Elkton too in recent years.

  4. If there is a class action lawsuit, I’m in. Good way to pay for my lamp oil. Looks like I’m going to keep looking for an honest person.

  5. Why don’t the EEOC and ACLU just open up local offices in Elkton? That way they won’t have to bill the town for milage every time they send a lawyer up to sue. Couldn’t we just win one ONCE for the Gipper?

  6. Wouldn’t it just be easier for organizations like the EEOC and ACLU to open up branch offices in Eltkon? That way, they wouldn’t have to bill the town for milage every time they have so send a lawyer up here for a law suit? Couldn’t we win just ONE for the Gipper?

    • Silence Nogood:
      We all want efficiences in government, nonprofits and corporations these days, so Someone Noticed thinks you might be onto something there. The ACLU has so many cases that Mayor Fisona told the Whig that the civil liberties group was picking on Elkton. Perhaps they could save some money and pass those savings on to others. Or perhaps Elkton could start thinking through actions before it gets hauled into court and then settles before officials are put on the stand to t3estify.

  7. Or maybe the town could just stop violating the law, then the EEOC and ACLU could focus on someone else for a change. This pattern of illegal conduct is costing us taxpayers. That money could be better utilized for town projects or a (gasp!) tax rate DEcrease.

    Mike, it would be interesting to see a chart from the last 15 years showing payouts due to lawsuits vs year. Sidenote: don’t forget to adjust the payouts to present value adjusting out the effect of inflation.

    • Bob: You’re right Bob. It’s amazing how many times Elkton gets into these legal tangles and then they end-up settling before the testimony starts. We planned to do a more indepth piece on the miss steps with the seniorhousing project and filed a freedom of information act request to obtain the paper trail on the matter. There were so many memos from the professioanl staff warning the political leadership that their regulations didn’t allow those actions, but the board had no problem ignoring those warnings and pushing right over the staff. That was until two citizens hauled them into court and then at the last minute when all of that would’ve come out in the trial and the mayor and others would’ve had to testify about why they ignored those warnings, they decided to settle.

  8. Yes, Chuck, I believe you are right. The voters just re-elected two incumbents after seeing numerous lawsuits during their tenure. I guess if we keep re-electing the same cast of characters, we will keep getting the same results. As the baseball great Yogi Berra said, “If you always do what you always did… you always get what you always got.”

    • Bob: At a point when all the fast moving news slows down we’ll start a series tabulationg the lawsuits Elkton has been involved in over the past 6 years and also through Freedom of Information get some data on the cost of legal defenses from the town. That should be an informative piece for readers since Elkton has been involved in a lot and there were a number that didnt make news in legay media, though they don’t cover many of the Elkton cases. But they also didn’t get any ink on Someone Noticed so we’ll pull all of those together.

  9. Bob. The taxpayers / voters deserve it. They continue to vote these idiot into office. Also, for every suit initiated, there are many more where the employee didn’t file. George needs to go, but so does a system where an intelligent manager is forced to choose between integrity and their job.

    • Chuck:

      Please allow me to disagree witn you just a little on this one. From the standpoint of Someone Noticed having watched these proceedings now carefully for over two years, the problem, largely, is not with the professional staff. It’s the political leadership that forces these decisions. Professional staff isn’t perfect, but more often they’re there urging caution and informing the commissioners about when they’re violating town ordinances (or federal).

      In the case of the senior housing lawsuit you should see the documents that were found during discovery show inghow often the professional staff was telling anyone and everyone that would listen, that they shouldn’t do it. The problem there wasn’t with professional staff for they were giving the correct information and guidance, but when your supervisors decide they’re aren’t going to listen, there’s not much you can do.

      One has to wonder why the mayor and commissioners wouldn’t have heed that professional guidance. Though they wanted it to happen, why wouldn’t they just change the laws first and then take the vote. How hard is that since there’s a solid majority voting block on the board invovling the mayor, and commissioners Jablonski and Piner. Two other commissioners show independence in decision making, weighing each case and voting as they seek the situation.

      That scenario in various ways gets repeated often. When Commissioner Jablonski decided she wanted a regulation about liquor establishments downtown selling single serve drinks, the town attorney (who happens to be the liquor board attorney), the assistant town administratr (whose position has since been eliminated), and others were saying that the policy the commissioner wanted was illegal. She pushed back, arguing that she’d done her research and talked to the liquor board, which was when the town attorney said don’t you know I’m also the liquor board attorney. As several of them tried to point out to the commissioner that this was illegal, the town attorney at one point said, “don’t get mad at me, I’m just trying to tell you want the law says.” He urged that they enforce the laws on the books, but she didn’t like that idea either.

      I could mention plenty of others like this, and will do a full story on the need for professional, analytical problem solving that’s done by the staff before the politicians get it mixed up at some point, when the volume of news slows down.

  10. Bob & Chuck, Isn’t this situation sad? How many employees have been let go? I understand 3 or 4. Maybe some more lawsuits? Is the Town out of money yet?It is supposed to be the Mayor & Commissioners not a dictatorship. The commissioners sure don’t speak up and neither do the taxpayers. There is no integrity or respect & the Town can’t be a good work environment.

  11. Ann:
    Here at Someone Noticed, we’re glad to have you aboard as a regular reader and we’re pleased to have comments. Ah yes, that Elkton downtown rumor mill certainly gets a lot of cases to mull over and try. It’s been particularly busy lately, hasn’t it.

    Please keep our readers informed on what you hear and here at Someone Noticed, a citien journalism site filling the content gap in hard news coverage from the Town of Elkton, we’re working on several other important public policy stories, as soon as we validiate some of the rumors and verify the stories.

    Freedom of Information Act requests are very helpful for us so we’re working on those too.,

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