The newest allegations include violations of ethical standards by having sexual relationship with her subordinate, the town’s married fire chief, ultimately resulting in his divorce; and dating relationships with two other firemen before the chief
The revised lawsuit filed last week by the town of Rural Hall includes new bombshell allegations about that town’s former town manager who recently began work as Graham city manager.
The lawsuit, filed by Winston-Salem attorney Randy James on behalf of the Forsyth County town of about 3,500, alleges that former town manager Megan Garner engaged in inappropriate, unethical “personal dating relationship” with the town’s fire chief, Andy Marshall, which is also, at times, described as a “personal intimate relationship,” a legal phrase suggesting that it included sex between the two.
[Editor’s Note: according to various news reports, Marshall was fired from his post earlier this month.]
The lawsuit questions whether the two had been living together in the time frame around November 2020 when the public works director, Jason Hill, is alleged (according to the lawsuit) to have reported to Garner that members of the public had reported “Andy Marshall’s Tahoe [had been seen] driving in the garage of Garner multiple times for months.”
“When confronted by his then wife, Andy Marshall admitted the personal dating relationship with Garner. Following this admission, Andy Marshall and his wife separated and later divorced.”
– amended lawsuit filed by town of Rural Hall against former town manager, now Graham city manager, Megan Garner
According to the lawsuit, Andy Marshall’s “then wife” discovered text messages in 2019 “by and between Andy Marshall and Garner.” According to the lawsuit, “When confronted by his then wife, Andy Marshall admitted the personal dating relationship with Garner. Following this admission, Andy Marshall and his wife separated and later divorced,” the lawsuit maintains. Garner herself is now single with two children from an earlier marriage.
Garner’s relationship with Marshall, even as she was his “direct supervisor,” violated ethical standards [Garner] had affirmed to uphold” [as a part of her membership in the International City/County Management Association (ICMA)], as well as the town’s “Non-Fraternization policy.”
Garner allegedly threatened public works director Hill “on more than one occasion” that he should be terminated, according to the lawsuit, after he had reported the public’s questions about her alleged relationship with Marshall.
Garner is alleged to have “continued her personal intimate relationship” with the fire chief while she was “applying for employment with [the city of] Graham.”
Indeed, according to the lawsuit, Garner’s inappropriate relationship with fire chief Marshall was preceded by two other inappropriate dating relationships with “two other firefighters” within the Rural Hall fire department.
Even while having a “personal intimate relationship” with the fire chief, Garner failed “to allocate expenditures to maintain firefighting equipment resulting in fire trucks having bad tires, mechanical issues affecting basic performance of firefighting trucks, denial of firefighters access to Town Administration to voice concerns about Garner’s relationship with Fire Chief Andy Marshall or an objective review of employees job performance,” the lawsuit alleges.
All of the information on the alleged “personal dating relationship” and “personal intimate relationship” between Garner and then-fire chief Andy Marshall is new information not previously publicly divulged prior to the filing of the amended complaint on December 8 by attorney James.
Lawsuit continues objection to supposed “settlement agreement”
Other dimensions of the lawsuit repeat and elaborate on previously-filed objections to the “settlement agreement,” which three members of the Rural Hall town council granted to Garner before both she and they resigned on October 21.
Meanwhile, Graham was scheduled to meet Friday morning, October 22, to hire Garner as its city manager.
Neither the fact that Garner had been offered a “six-figure settlement agreement,” nor the circumstances surrounding it, was known by Graham’s council at the time its members voted to hire Garner, The Alamance News has been told.
The lawsuit contends that there was no legal authority for the Rural Hall majority to vote for any severance package: according to the lawsuit, the employment agreement between the Forsyth County town and Garner called for a severance only if she was fired; instead she allegedly resigned – although the lawsuit adds that “no written resignation has been preserved, presented or shared with Rural Hall current council members.”
Garner also failed to work a 90-day notice, as required by that employment agreement, according to the lawsuit.
And, importantly, the three Rural Hall town councilmen who authorized the settlement – town councilmen Ricky Plunkett, Jesse A. Stigall, and John N. McDermon – acted beyond the scope of their authority in authorizing a settlement with Garner, according to the amended complaint.
An attempt by Garner (and the three supportive councilmen) to convert the agreement into cash in her account failed. According to the lawsuit, this was “due to the magnitude of the transfer, which is described as “a six-figure sum” that exceeded “Rural Hall’s previously imposed transaction limits for [its] payroll accounts.”
“Additional payments called for in the ‘Settlement Agreement’ have similarly been suspended,” according to the amended lawsuit.
The “putative settlement agreement” also failed to include a “preaudit certification,” from the town’s finance officer verifying that the town had sufficient funds to cover the settlement.
The town, in its amended lawsuit, is continuing to contend that the settlement agreement is “invalid,” that the three town councilmen and Garner violated their fiduciary duties to the town in purporting to agree to it, and that Garner was not entitled to any “settlement.”
The town is also continuing to ask that the terms of the settlement agreement, labeled “confidential” by the three members who approved it, be examined by a superior court judge in Forsyth County and unsealed. “The [settlement agreement] should be treated as a public record and the provisions purporting to make [it] confidential should be disregarded as a legal nullity,” according to the amended lawsuit.
“In negotiating and attempting to obtain the settlement proceeds from the Town of Rural Hall, Garner acted in her own interest and not in the interest of the citizens and employees of Rural Hall,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Garner created a false narrative – that she had been falsely accused of a relationship with Marshall – which she allegedly shared with the three city council allies to convince them to provide her with the settlement for what she claimed was “vile and public disrespect.”
She is alleged to have drafted the agreement, in consultation with the three councilmen, on her work computer, during work hours and refused to reveal its contents when she asked the town finance director to notarize it.
To read the amended lawsuit, filed in Forsyth County on Dec. 8, 2021 in its entirety, click HERE
Beyond Rural Hall’s lawsuit: Graham gets assurances that nothing will embarrass the city
When Graham’s city council met to finalize the hiring of Garner on October 22, it had scheduled the meeting prior to all of the October 21 resignations in Rural Hall – by Garner, Rural Hall’s town attorney, and the three members of the town council.
When Graham’s city council met that morning, the members initially went into a closed session on October 22 in an adjacent conference room at which Garner was present for a portion of the meeting. The closed portion of the meeting lasted approximately one hour and 20 minutes, after which the council came out into open session and voted unanimously to hire Garner.
Mayor Jerry Peterman chaired both the open and closed portions of the meeting electronically from Arizona, where he was visiting his son, daughter-in-law, and only grandson. (Peterman will chair his last meeting of the city council Tuesday night; he and his wife Jan are expected to move to Mesa, Arizona later this week to be near them.)
“Nothing that we heard in the closed meeting or read in the news [yesterday, apparently referring to the resignations in Rural Hall] changed our minds. . . We’re giving her the benefit of the doubt.”
– Graham mayor Jerry Peterman
In the interview after the meeting, Peterman said Garner had been present for about 15 minutes of the Graham council’s closed session. “Nothing that we heard in the closed meeting or read in the news [yesterday, apparently referring to the resignations in Rural Hall] changed our minds,” the mayor said, emphasizing that the support for bringing her in as the new city manager had been unanimous. “We’re giving her the benefit of the doubt,” he added at the time.
The newspaper has since learned that some members of the city council pressed Garner on whether there was “anything” that might come out from the Rural Hall departure that would embarrass Graham as her new employer. She was insistent that there was nothing.
“There might be some problems in Rural Hall,” the mayor said in commenting on the sudden resignations on October 21 of three town council members. As for Garner’s own resignation, which was reported to have been made at Thursday’s town council meeting in Rural Hall, Peterman said Garner had explained that she had submitted it earlier in the week although the Rural Hall town council accepted it during their Thursday meeting.
However, part of the amended lawsuit says that “no written resignation has been preserved, presented or shared with Rural Hall current council members.”
The vote to offer Garner the job at a rate of $120,000 annually and to extend the offer in the form of a formal contract was unanimous among Graham’s five-member council on October 22. Garner’s salary in Rural Hall has been $111,514, according to the town’s lawsuit.
She began her duties in Graham on November 15.
Garner, reached after the end of a Graham city council work session Monday night, said she would have “no comment” on the latest filing against her.
Garner’s attorney, Valerie Bateman of the Forrest Firm in Durham, has been granted an extension of the deadline to file a response to the complaint. The deadline to respond is currently set for January 18, 2022, according to court documents.
See earlier coverage of Garner’s departure from Rural Hall, https://alamancenews.com/plan-for-friday-announcement-of-new-graham-city-manager-may-be-thrown-into-question/
hiring by Graham,
explanation from that town’s three resigned members (in their resignation letters), including the text of their resignation letters
See text of those resignation letters HERE
and Rural Hall’s planned and original lawsuit against Garner: