Chapin clerk files lawsuit against mayor, seeks damages - - Columbia, South Carolina

Chapin clerk files lawsuit against mayor, seeks damages


Chapin's suspended clerk filed a lawsuit Friday against the mayor for defaming her character and retaliating against her for being a whistle-blower.

Adrienne Thompson, who has been employed as clerk for more than 13 years, alleges in the lawsuit that Mayor James "Skip" Wilson Jr. violated public policy by suspending her without council approval April 25. Two days after Wilson suspended Thompson, a press release was sent out stating her suspension is a result of a criminal investigation into allegations that she misappropriated town funds, made unauthorized purchases, had improper financial reporting, ethics violations, and nepotism.

Wilson requested the State Law Enforcement Division investigate the Town of Chapin on May 1. This investigation is ongoing.

"The charges against me are false," Thompson, 71, said in a statement Friday. "My mind is consumed with [Mayor Wilson's] accusations and knowing how hard I have worked and have tried to do so many good things to be condemned for accomplishing my crowning achievement is beyond my comprehension."

Thompson claims in the lawsuit that Wilson was targeting her before he was sworn in as mayor, acting "brashly toward several employees," including Thompson. She said Wilson made numerous demands to see the town's financial books, accountings and records, and "became vindictive" when Thompson said he had to go through the proper protocol and procedures as any town citizen in order to see the information.

After Wilson took his oath of office in January, Thompson said Wilson "did not want her working" for Chapin and "that she should leave employment quietly or that he would embarrass and humiliate her." In addition, Wilson told Thompson she "had outgrown her job," according to court documents.

The clerk claims it was at this time that Wilson then hired Communications and Economic Development Director Karen Owens to do many of the things Thompson has done for years. Owens was previously working with the Greater Chapin Chamber of Commerce.

"Former Mayor Stan Shealy and members of town council, who have worked with her over the years, can attest to her hard work, dedication, and the program which the town has made through the efforts of Mrs. Thompson and those who have supervised her and represented the town over the years," said J. Lewis Cromer, Thompson's attorney.

Thompson said her suspension came less than a month after she gave a written report April 1 to council at a town meeting, which outlined the issues she was having with the mayor. Court documents say this is retaliation for the clerk's action as a whistle-blower, according to a state Whistle-blower Act.

"Mayor Wilson has charged her with scurrilous false allegations, which have impacted upon her career, livelihood, and most of all, upon her reputation," Cromer said. "He has done so knowing that the charges were false and has pursued them anyway as a personal vendetta, not only has he tried to change the way the town is operated, but he has also acted to personally and vengefully cause Mrs. Thompson harm."

Thompson is requesting a jury trial and seeks monetary damages. She also filed charges with the S.C. Human Affairs Commission for age discrimination against Wilson.

WIS requested comment from Wilson, but as of this report, he has not responded.

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