Friday, October 7, 2022

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Graham city mgr. files lawsuit against town council member at her previous job

Rural Hall town council member’s allegations, including about missing money, were “false and malicious”, “embarrassing and humiliating”

Graham city manager Megan Garner has filed a lawsuit in Alamance County civil superior court, seeking more than $25,000 damages against one of her former employers in Rural Hall.

Garner filed the lawsuit Friday in Alamance County civil superior court, claiming that Susan Gordon – who, in addition to Rural Hall mayor Tim Flinchum, is the only remaining council

member who has continued to serve on the town council since the town manager resigned abruptly in October 2021 – has made numerous “false and malicious statements.”

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As a result of those allegedly false and malicious statements, Garner claims that she no longer felt comfortable in her job as Rural Hall town manager or in her home, forcing her to leave her job and move to Graham.  The court file lists her current address as 1411 Raspberry Run in Graham.

Garner claims that in June 2021, Gordon publicly slandered her by telling a gathering of the Rural Hall Historical Society that, as town manager, she had deliberately “provided crappy spreadsheets to the town council which was a fabulous way to hide money,” according to her suit.

Garner was subsequently contacted by local news media “about a missing 1.5 million dollars,” and the news media published stories “regarding the alleged missing money which was also embarrassing and humiliating,” according to her suit.

Garner claims that she had been interviewed during an “independent audit conducted by a certified public accounting firm through the North Carolina State Auditor’s Office” and asked if she knew where the claim about the alleged missing money had originated.  According to her suit, this line of questioning about the alleged missing money “was embarrassing and humiliating,” which she attributes to Gordon’s rumor-mongering.

Moreover, Garner notes in her suit that Gordon had an opportunity to submit a report about the missing money to the town’s independent auditor but declined to do so because she knew her claims about the missing money were false.

The former Rural Hall town manager also claims that, during the same meeting with the town’s historical society in June 2021, Gordon had insinuated that Garner “had been served with legal process in connection with an affair with a married Forsyth County sheriff’s deputy,” which the councilwoman also knew was false, according to Garner’s suit.

She later resigned her position as Rural Hall town manager, which she had held since July 2017, on October 21, 2021, the same night that three then-councilmen and the town’s attorney also resigned.

The next morning, on Friday, October 22, 2021, Graham’s city council voted unanimously to hire Garner as their new city manager, succeeding Frankie Maness, who resigned in early 2021 to take a job as the county manager for Montgomery County.

Garner claims in her suit that, during the summer of 2021, Gordon began spreading false and malicious rumors about her in the hamlet of 3,500 people that sits along the northern edge of Forsyth County, just south of the Stokes County line.

Garner contends that Gordon’s alleged false statements amounted to slander per se, which she interprets as meaning that “malice and damages are presumed” and as eliminating any requirement for Garner to prove actual injury resulted from the alleged conduct, according to her suit.

In addition to at least $25,000 damages against Gordon, Garner is also asking a superior court judge to award her punitive damages, as well as the plaintiff’s costs for filing the action.

Garner is being represented by Valerie L. Bateman and June K. Allison of the New South Law Firm in Carrboro and Charlotte, respectively.

The court file lists Gordon’s address as 7430 Broad Street in Rural Hall.  She had not been served with a summons by press time; nor had she filed a response to the complaint.

Meanwhile, Garner remains entangled in two separate lawsuits that have been filed against her in Forsyth County superior court.

In the first, her former employer, the town of Rural Hall, filed a lawsuit against Garner in November 2021 to void payment of a $150,000 “settlement,” which she claims in court filings was intended to be “compensation” for an alleged “hostile work environment” based on her gender.  The settlement was approved by the three now-former councilmen who resigned the same night as Garner; Gordon voted against the settlement for Garner.

In February 2022, Stacy Marshall, the ex-wife of Rural Hall’s former fire chief, Andy Marshall, filed a separate alienation-of-affection suit against Garner, seeking thousands in damages for allegedly seducing Marshall and destroying the couple’s marriage.  (Marshall was later terminated from his position as the town’s fire chief in December 2021, Rural Hall town officials confirmed at the time for The Alamance News.)

The lawsuits filed by the town of Rural Hall and Stacy Marshall remain pending in Forsyth County superior court.

A deputy clerk of superior court confirmed for The Alamance News Monday that, even though the alleged actions occurred in Forsyth County, it was allowable for Garner to file the lawsuit against Gordon in Alamance County because the plaintiff resides here even though the defendant does not.

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