Proposed lawsuit settlement on Luzerne County Council agenda

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected] | October 22nd, 2017 6:41 pm

If you go

Tuesday’s Luzerne County Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

Luzerne County Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the proposed settlement of a 2016 lawsuit filed by former Emergency Management Agency worker Loretta Presto.

The administration did not disclose the settlement amount.

Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo has said the name of the litigant and court docket number are the only details that must be disclosed in advance.

The administration stopped the early release of settlement amounts this year, opting to wait until voting sessions in an attempt to minimize public discussion it says could compromise litigation that must proceed if settlements are rejected.

A proposed $56,000 settlement with former county election director Leonard Piazza failed to receive majority council support in August, which means that matter is proceeding to federal trial.

Presto, of Shickshinny, alleged she was treated unfairly due to her disabilities, leading to her 2016 resignation from her agency job, according to the suit filed against the county in federal court.

The suit detailed Presto’s nearly 16-year county work history, stating she first worked for 911 as a dispatcher/telecommunicator, transferred into a front office/clerk typist position due to the stress of handling emergency calls and then moved to EMA, where she was a clerk typist/secretary and later Act 165 coordinator.

The suit stated that in February 2015 she was on workers’ compensation after slipping on a wet floor, causing injuries that required wrist surgery and therapy.

Presto alleged then-deputy director Lucy Morgan told volunteers in the office “that she did not believe Ms. Presto had fallen, and that she was going to try to force Ms. Presto out of Luzerne County EMA when (Morgan) became director,” the suit said. Morgan became director in July 2015.

When Presto returned to work after surgery, she maintains her relationship with Morgan grew tense, the suit said. Morgan and other county representatives failed to make reasonable accommodations for her disabilities, which included severe anxiety and panic attacks and irritable bowel syndrome, the suit said.

After unsuccessfully applying for county openings in other departments, she resigned in February 2016, the suit said.

In its response earlier this year, the county denied many of the allegations and some of the specific details about Presto’s work assignments.

The county stated Presto did not satisfactorily perform the duties and responsibilities of the positions she held with the county and that she refused and rejected all opportunities to receive training for her EMA position.

Morgan never made a statement challenging Presto’s work injury or expressing an intention to force Presto out of the office, the county said. Instead, the county maintained Morgan went out of her way to treat Presto with kindness, including watching Presto’s dog when she went on vacation, purchasing clothing for her and offering her a room in her home when Presto had nowhere to stay.

The county also disputed that Presto advised the county and Morgan that her alleged medical condition or medication prevented her from responding to emergency calls at night or performing other job duties, its response said. The county also argued that the alleged medical conditions cited in Presto’s suit do not constitute disabilities within the meaning of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

According to the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting, the administration recommends settlement to avoid an expected tens of thousands of dollars in additional legal fees and a potentially lengthy appeals process following the jury trial verdict.

Luzerne County Courthouse County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

If you go

Tuesday’s Luzerne County Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.