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County settles with former atty.; he’ll get $165K

Fired when he was 64, county atty. charged age discrimination; EEOC agreed; county’s insurance will pay; county admits no wrongdoing

Alamance County has quietly settled an employment discrimination dispute with its former legal counsel in a mediated agreement that includes a cash payment of $165,000.

Former county attorney Clyde Albright apparently accepted this deal after a “successful” mediation session on December 8 allowed him to put a period on an age discrimination claim that predated his summary dismissal from Alamance County in the fall of 2021.

Albright, who now serves as Rockingham County’s attorney, had originally lodged his complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission several months before he was sacked by the county’s board of commissioners in a closed door meeting on October 3, 2021. His termination ultimately gave rise to a second submission to the EEOC that, this time, coupled the original age discrimination complaint with a new claim of retaliation.

Albright’s subsequent settlement with Alamance County apparently puts both of these allegations to bed. This mutual decision to let bygones be bygones is detailed in the text of a settlement agreement that a federal administrative law judge issued on December 21, 2023.

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According to this agreement, Albright has “released, waived, and forever discharged” the county from any legal liability it may’ve had under his discrimination complaints. Moreover, he has agreed to forfeit any additional payments for “wages, bonus compensation, benefits, or leave entitlements;” any compensation for court costs and attorney’s fees; and any monetary damages for torts ranging from slander, libel, and defamation to wrongful discharge and negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The agreement goes on to admonish Albright to hold his tongue about his former employers in Alamance County. It asserts, among other things, that he has “agreed not to disparage or defame, in any way, the reputation, good name, good will or professional standing” of his former employers. It also contains specific instructions about how he is to discuss the discrimination claims that he had once lodged against Alamance County.

“[The] releasor agrees,” the agreement states, “[that], if asked about the status of this matter, he will only respond as follows: ‘The matter has been resolved’ [emphasis in the original].”

The agreement makes it abundantly clear that this confidentiality clause doesn’t apply to the county, which it goes on to stress would be “in violation of North Carolina statute” were it “to keep any term of the agreement confidential.” The agreement also emphasizes that the county’s decision to sign off on the financial settlement with Albright shouldn’t be construed as an admission of wrongdoing.

“[The] releasor agreed that releasees did not admit liability of any sort,” the document adds, “and that the consideration paid on behalf of the releasees is made only to terminate any further controversy.”

The approval of this deal by federal authorities appears to have warded off a persistent specter that has hung over Alamance County’s commissioners since they went behind closed doors in October of 2021 to determine the fate of their then chief legal representative.

Although state law requires local officials to take action on personnel matters in open session, the board of commissioners didn’t formally vote on Albright’s dismissal until they convened a belated special meeting a week after their closed-door machinations. By then, Albright had already been apprised of the board’s resolution, which was sprung on him when he showed up for work two days after the closed session occurred.

Shortly before Albright’s departure, the board of commissioners had enlisted the Winston-Salem based Teague Campbell law firm to serve as the county’s new legal counsel. Among Teague Campbell’s duties was to defend the commissioners against Albright’s employment discrimination complaints as they wound their way through the EEOC’s review process during the next couple of years.

At some point along the way, Albright’s complaints seem to have found their way to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. Although it’s unclear from the settlement agreement what connection this federal agency has to the case, its name appears at the top of the document’s first page and is mentioned throughout in combination with the EEOC.

Albright, who gave his age at the time of his departure as 64 1/2, would ultimately be succeeded in his role as Alamance County’s attorney by Rik Stevens, who had previously plied his legal services at the sheriff’s offices in Guilford and Chatham counties. Stevens, who was 39 when he joined the county’s legal department in the fall of 2022, has since taken over much of Teague Campbell’s work on his predecessor’s employment discrimination complaint.

Albright didn’t respond when The Alamance News contacted him for a comment about the settlement on Wednesday.

Stevens, when reached for a comment, at first gave The Alamance News a laconic response that echoes the canned statement required of Albright.

“The Albright matter has been resolved,” he confirmed in his initial email to the newspaper on Wednesday.

Stevens subsequently provided a copy of the agreement itself after the newspaper inquired about the settlement’s particulars. He also opened up about the deal’s implications for Alamance County.

“Importantly, there was no admission of discrimination by anyone here at the county as to Albright related to his termination,” Stevens declared in a follow-up email. “We maintain that there was not discrimination in his termination, or otherwise.  Further, the amount paid to Albright was funded entirely by insurance and not money spent from the county’s general fund.”

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