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Former town employee paid $28K

By Staff | Jul 10, 2009

John E. Mathews III

The Corporation of Shepherdstown has agreed to pay $28,000 to its former zoning officer John E. Mathews III as part of a out-of-court settlement.

Mathews claimed in a suit filed May 30, 2008, that the town failed to comply with the Open Governmental Proceedings Act during his termination proceedings in early 2008.

The settlement involves the dismissal of the civil action filed in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County against the Corporation and former Mayor Lance Dom.

“(The $28,000 figure) was agreed upon by all the parties,” Mathews’s Attorney David M. Hammer said Monday. “That number arose out of the mediation process. … That was a negotiated number.”

The settlement agreement was authorized by the Town Council during a 10 a.m., April 12, special Town Council meeting at Town Hall, 104 N. King St. The council went into executive session to discuss the matter before its vote.

The motion to authorize the settlement was made by Stuart Wallace, seconded by Thomas Martin. It passed unanimously with votes from Wallace and Martin, Wanda Grantham Smith, Lori Robertson, Howard Mills and Jim Ford.

The amount will be paid from the town’s General Operating Budget.

The Chronicle obtained a copy of the “Confidential Settlement Agreement and Release of all Claims,” signed by Mathews on May 1, after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Corporation of Shepherdstown. The settlement agreement is subject to disclosure under the law, though the details of the mediation process remain confidential.

Former Mayor Lance Dom had said at the time of Mathews’s termination that he was fired because he frequently behaved in an arrogant and condescending way toward his coworkers in Town Hall.

One of the stipulations of the settlement required Mathews to acklowledge “that this Confidential Settlement Agreement and Release of All Claims is the compromise of doubtful, disputed and contingent claims … and that the payment made is NOT to be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing in any manner on the part of (The Corporation of Shepherdstown and Lance Dom), each of whom expressly denies any liablity or wrongdoing.

“(Mathews) further acknowledges that, by entering into this (agreement), (The Corporation of Shepherdstown and Lance Dom) intend merely to avoid further litigation or appeal and the costs incidental thereto and to buy their peace.”

Mathews filed his civil action on May 30, 2008, as he was actively campaigning for the office of town mayor. In a letter to the editor published May 16, 2009, in the Chronicle, Mathews wrote: “This is to set the record straight: I am NOT suing anyone, including Shepherdstown or its officials for anything. … I made a decision to run for Mayor in lieu of personal litigation for obvious grounds including, but not limited to, intentional misrepresentations affecting my character and reputation. …”

Mathews ultimately lost his bid for mayor to Jim Auxer by a vote of 181 to 70. He is in the process of moving to central Florida to be closer to family.