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Fired county attorney claims age discrimination as underlying cause  for termination

Albright, who is 64, says he will also cite Open Meetings Law violation, seek to invalidate his firing     

Former county attorney Clyde Albright is preparing to challenge his firing last week by the county commissioners, formulating a lawsuit with multiple allegations of wrongdoing by his former bosses.

In an interview with The Alamance News, Albright said he had been a victim of “age discrimination.” He said commissioners had asked him recently, “When do you plan to retire?”

He explained in a phone interview with the newspaper that the question was inappropriate, coupled with two other statements or questions which he didn’t reveal, but all of which, he said, clearly reveal a hostility toward him based on his age.

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Albright, who has been the county’s attorney for 13 years, said he is now 64½.

Albright also noted that the procedure used for his firing was a violation of North Carolina’s Open Meetings Law, which requires that a public body take action in open session before terminating a public employee over whom they have jurisdiction.

Instead, the commissioners apparently reached a unanimous decision in a 1½-hour closed session on Monday, October 4, to fire him, and instructed the county’s personnel director, Sherry Hook, to prepare the “necessary paperwork” for the dismissal.

That was implemented on Wednesday morning, October 6, when Albright was told of his dismissal by the county’s personnel director. Also standing by to observe his packing up of his belongings was county commissioner Bill Lashley.

Lashley made the motion in Monday’s special-called commissioners’ meeting formally to dismiss Albright, and Lashley cited October 6 as the date for that termination.

Albright did not reveal a time frame for his likely litigation against his former employer, but he did observe that the Open Meetings statute provides a 45-day window for lawsuits which seek to overturn the actions taken by a public body in an illegally closed session.

A court “may declare any such action [taken, considered, discussed, or deliberated in an improperly closed meeting] null and void.”

Albright seemed to imply that he would seek to have his dismissal overturned on those grounds, in addition to pursuing the claim of age discrimination.

Albright also voiced suspicions that sheriff Terry Johnson had a behind-the-scenes role in his termination. Albright has clashed with Johnson occasionally on whether the sheriff can enter into certain contracts without obtaining commissioner approval.

Albright noted that the county’s contracts for housing prisoners for both the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service are due for renewal soon.

See other current coverage from Monday’s county commissioner meeting when Albright was formally fired:

And last week’s coverage:

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