Stockbridge files defense in Scott Muir’s wrongful termination lawsuit
STOCKBRIDGE -- Former town employee Scott Muir was an "at-will employee and was not entitled to any process prior to termination," according to the town’s response to a lawsuit over his dismissal.
An attorney representing Stockbridge has filed the town’s defense of the wrongful termination lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Springfield and demanded a jury trial in the case.
Muir’s termination followed his Jan. 28 acquittal by a Berkshire Superior Court jury of 19 charges that he sexually assaulted five young female students between 2003 and 2006 while employed as a student support counselor at the former Stockbridge Plain School.
On Muir’s behalf, Lenox attorney Jeffrey Scrimo filed a lawsuit against the town and Select Board Chairman Stephen Shatz, claiming that his dismissal as the former facilities manager and emergency services director was caused by the allegations made against him. And that, the suit claims, violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution involving property rights and liberty interests.
In a point-by-point rebuttal, the town’s attorney, Douglas I. Louison of Louison, Costello, Condon & Pfaff LLC of Boston, denied that Muir’s dismissal violated due-process guarantees of the 14th Amendment. The rebuttal calls for a judgment in the town’s favor, in addition to costs and attorney’s fees, as well as a trial by jury.
The six-page document obtained by The Eagle maintains that Muir was granted all his rights under the law and his employee relationship with Stockbridge and that he had "no property interest" in continued employment.
The response also disputes Muir’s allegation that Shatz publicized his termination to news media, including The Eagle.
"Any alleged injuries or damages sustained by the plaintiff were caused by his own negligent and-or intentional conduct for which the defendants are not legally responsible," the town’s response states.
The document also denies Muir’s assertion that during his employment by the town, he performed his job "in a satisfactory manner and did not receive any disciplines or poor performance reviews."
And it disputes Muir’s claim that, during a termination hearing before the Select Board on March 11, he did not receive any formal or informal accusations of rules violations or poor work performance while employed by the town.
The town maintains that Shatz, as chairman of the Select Board, "acted objectively, reasonably under the circumstances" and is immune from liability. The town also argued that Muir’s attorney failed to properly serve his complaint on the defendants.
During an Eagle interview, attorney Scrimo contended that Muir had been denied the ability to work and had failed to gain at least 11 potential positions "for which he is well-qualified" because of stigma and loss to his reputation caused by news reports about his dismissal from Stockbridge Town Hall.
Scrimo also acknowledged that the news media were "100 percent within their rights" to report on the Select Board’s action.
The lawsuit, filed at federal court in Springfield on May 20, remains in its "discovery phase," Scrimo told The Eagle on Tuesday -- meaning attorneys for both sides are gathering information and researching the facts involved in the case.
Louison, the town attorney, did not respond to requests for additional comment.
Scrimo’s suit seeks a jury trial and a finding that Muir’s termination was "unconstitutional and void." The lawsuit also calls for his reinstatement to his Town Hall positions.
The complaint detailed Muir’s "constitutionally protected liberty interest in his name, reputation, honor and integrity as a public employee with respect to his ability to work." Alleging that the town violated his client’s due-process rights under the 14th Amendment, Scrimo argued that Muir has suffered damage to his reputation, loss of income, and the right to obtain employment.
Muir’s school position was eliminated by the school district in June 2007 after it reorganized. Four months later, he was hired by the town as facilities manager; he was named emergency services director in January 2008.
He was suspended without pay in May 2012, a month after his arrest and arraignment on the sexual assault allegations. Scrimo argued that his client had received no negative performance reviews nor any disciplinary reprimands. Muir, a lifelong town resident, was paid $83,000 by the town to cover lost wages and benefits while he was suspended awaiting the trial that resulted in a not guilty verdict.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto