Thursday, June 30, 2022

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Megan Garner’s attorney for suit brought by town of Rural Hall could be disqualified over charge of ethical violation

The town of Rural Hall has dropped another bombshell in the ongoing lawsuit that the town has filed, seeking to void what it contends was an illegal six-figure settlement with former town manager Megan Garner, who became Graham’s new city manager in November 2021.

The town of Rural Hall has filed a new motion seeking to disqualify Garner’s attorney, Valerie Bateman, over an alleged conflict of interest that the town claims is a violation of the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys.

The town of Rural Hall filed suit against Garner on November 15, 2021 – the same day she began her duties as Graham city manager – seeking to void the “six figure lump sum settlement agreement” for Garner that was approved by three-now former town councilmen, a majority of the town’s five-member council, who resigned their seats on October 21, 2021, the same night that she resigned as town manager to take the job as Graham city manager.

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In its newest motion, the town is asking a judge to disqualify Garner’s attorney, Bateman, because she’s married to Robert Jessup, Jr., an attorney with Sanford Holshouser in Carrboro.  Both Bateman and Jessup were simultaneously working for the town of Rural Hall when Bateman drafted a “six figure lump sum” settlement that Garner was to have received upon her resignation as that town’s manager in October of last year, according to the town’s latest motion.

Not only is Bateman married to one of the attorneys with Sanford Holshouser, Robert Jessup, Jr., but the two firms are located in the same building in Carrboro, based on the motion that was filed Friday in Forsyth County civil superior court.

Bateman had originally assisted in drafting a letter that Garner sent to Rural Hall’s town council in January 2021, alleging that she had been subjected to attacks on her “character and integrity” by the town’s public works director, Jason Hill, and town administrator Misty Meadows, according to the town’s motion to disqualify Bateman.

The town filed an amended complaint last month, which downplayed those attacks as Hill and Meadows having questioned Garner about how they were to respond to questions they were getting about Garner’s relationship with a subordinate, then-Rural Hall fire chief Andy Marshall, who was her direct report.

“Garner’s letter sought to head off any further revelations of Garner’s relationship with Marshall by attacking Jason Hill” and former town administrator Misty Meadows, now Rural Hall’s town manager, for questioning Garner’s relationship with a subordinate, the town contends in its latest motion.

Two months later, in March 2021, Garner recommended hiring Sanford Holshouser – the law firm where Bateman’s husband works – to develop a new strategic plan for Rural Hall, for a $55,000 fee that was to have been paid in installments, with an initial payment of $15,000.

Jessup later acknowledged “having known [Garner] over the years,” based on emails that Jessup sent in late December and earlier this month to the town’s interim attorney, Randall (“Randy”) James, which were filed with the latest motion.

“As for our address and Valerie Bateman’s – Megan asked us for a referral on a personal matter, which she did not otherwise describe,” Jessup explained to James in an email earlier this month, which is included in the court file.  “I referred her to someone to whom I generally refer folks when I get those kinds of inquiries – my wife, Valerie Bateman.  In this case, as with other similar referrals, I have not had any discussions with Valerie about the substance or nature of her work for Megan – other than an initial ‘thanks for the referral.’”

The town is asking a Forsyth County superior court judge to disqualify Bateman because she may be called to testify at a forthcoming trial.


SEE EARLIER COVERAGE:

Bombshell allegations in newest court filing from Rural Hall: former town mgr., now Graham’s mgr., had improper dating relationship with town’s fire chief: https://alamancenews.com/bombshell-allegations-in-newest-court-filing-from-rural-hall-former-town-mgr-now-grahams-mgr-had-improper-dating-relationship-with-towns-fire-chief/

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, 

https://alamancenews.com/graham-council-votes-unanimously-to-hire-new-city-manager-megan-garner-will-be-the-citys-first-woman-in-the-top-spot/

explanation from that town’s three resigned members (in their resignation letters), including the text of their resignation letters

Rural Hall town council defenders of Garner claim ‘smear campaign’ was designed to drive her out – alamancenews.com

See text of those resignation letters HERE

and Rural Hall’s planned and original lawsuit against Garner:

https://alamancenews.com/new-town-council-in-rural-hall-plans-to-sue-former-mgr-grahams-new-mgr-over-100k-severance-package/

https://alamancenews.com/former-employer-files-lawsuit-against-new-graham-city-manager-on-her-first-day-on-the-job/

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