Lawsuit filed against Councilman and County

WINNSBORO – Former Fairfield County Recreation Director, Lori Schaeffer, has filed a lawsuit against County Councilman Douglas Pauley and Fairfield County.

The complaint, filed with the Fairfield County Clerk of Court on Feb. 12, 2018, alleges that Pauley illegally interfered with Schaeffer’s employment and was involved in her termination last fall such that he either insisted upon her termination and/or was the source of the complaint used to justify her termination.

Schaeffer alleges that the County violated a “clear mandate of public policy such that Pauley could interfere and did interfere in her employment, which is prohibited by the letter and spirit” of the law.  She states that because Fairfield County has a Council/Administrator form of government, its Council members are forbidden from meddling in the day-to-day affairs of that government and from supervising county employees other than the county administrator.

The suit also cites S.C. Code 4-9-660 which states: “Except for the purposes of inquiries and investigations, the council shall deal with county officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the county administrator solely through the administrator, and neither the council nor its members shall give orders or instructions to any such officers or employees.”

Schaeffer, who was hired by the County as Recreation Director in October, 2007, states that Pauley, immediately upon becoming a Council member in April, 2017, “began to nit-pick and micromanage” her work. She alleges that Pauley hassled her, “about miniscule items including an issue with baseball uniforms being late to arrive, the start time for the County’s baseball schedule, schedules generally, and later a wall at the County’s recreation center playground.”

The suit also cites the following and other ways that Schaeffer alleges Pauley interfered with her work.

– During the County’s 2017 budget meeting, Schaeffer alleges that she was disproportionately questioned by Pauley regarding the intricacies of her department budget in comparison to other department heads. The suit states that Pauley also asked Schaeffer, but not other department heads, questions that were not germane to the budget.

– During a meeting with Pauley in Deputy County Administrator Davis Anderson’s office, Schaeffer alleges that Pauley stated to her that “they want you [Schaeffer] and [another person] terminated from the County.”

– Schaeffer alleges that Pauley interjected himself into her employment when, she states, an unforeseen issue arose due to unpronounced changes in Little League Baseball Rules which precluded three boys from competing in state all-star competition for the 9-10 age bracket due to their age. Schaeffer’s lawsuit states that the boys were permitted to compete in the next bracket up. The suit states that Pauley specifically told Anderson that the issue was disgraceful and that something had to be done about Schaeffer and her department.

– Pauley, Schaeffer alleges, requested that one of her subordinates be terminated.

– Schaeffer alleges that when she secured bids that were approved by Anderson and Taylor for a grant-funded scoreboard, the purchase was put on hold when Pauley interjected himself, stating that he could get the scoreboard cheaper.

– On or around September 5, 2017, Pauley questioned whether proper hiring procedures had been followed in regard to a recreation employee, the suit alleges. Schaeffer states that her employment with the County was terminated on the basis that one of her subordinate employees had failed to perform background checks for a Little League football coach.

The suit states that the County is liable for Schaeffer’s termination which, it states, violates state law and that she is entitled to recover from the County all damages associated with her termination.

Schaeffer further states that Pauley is liable for tortious interference with her contract and that she is entitled to damages, from both Pauley and the County, for her diminished earning capacity, lost wages, lost benefits, embarrassment, shock, humiliation, pain and suffering, reputational loss and loss of good will.

The suit, which requests a jury trial, also states that Pauley’s actions were willful and intentional and asks for punitive damages.

Asked to comment on the lawsuit, County Administrator Jason Taylor said he had not yet met with the attorney yet.

“It’s an on-going lawsuit and I really can’t comment at this time,” Taylor said. “Our insurance through the County Association covers us in these kinds of actions.”

Fred Williams with the law firm Gignilliat, Sabitz and Bettis in Columbia has been assigned to represent the County.