The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

January 30, 2013

Judge orders DSS director Scott back to work

The Daily Southerner

TARBORO — Marva Scott resumed her duties as the director of the Edgecombe County Department of Social Services (DSS) on Monday following a court ruling earlier in the day.

“Mrs. Scott looks forward to resuming her service to the people of Edgecombe County without further disruption or cost to the community,” said Scott’s lawyer, Kyle Nutt.

The Superior Court Judge ruled the DSS Board “did not have a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal and did not have a likelihood of suffering irreparable harm as a result of her reinstatement,” said Nutt. “The Court also found a likelihood that Mrs. Scott would suffer irreparable harm if she were prevented from returning to work.”

Scott was terminated on Feb. 29, 2012, after being placed on administrative leave on December 20, 2011. County Manager Lorenzo Carmon had been serving as DSS director since that time. Scott formally appealed her suspension and legal proceedings began.

The Superior Court Judge’s decision at Monday’s hearing was in line with North Carolina Administrative Law Judge Augustus B. Elkins II’s Dec. 20, 2012 ruling that Scott be reinstated to her former position with full pay and benefits.

Sonny Haynes and Mary Craven Adams, who represented the county, said Monday’s motion to stay was “merely a preliminary motion.” The respondents — Edgecombe County Social Services Board, Edgecombe County Commissioners and Carmon — filed a petition for judicial review and motion to stay following the Dec. 20 ruling, with the goal of preserving the “status quo” and keeping Scott from resuming her role as DSS director.

“Judge Hinton’s ruling permits Ms. Scott to return to work pending a hearing on the petition for judicial review. The full hearing on the Petition for Judicial Review will take place at a later date, and at such time the court will have the entire record before it.  Ms. Scott’s attorneys requested that the court proceed to hear arguments on the Petition for Judicial Review without the record; this request was denied by Judge Hinton,” stated Haynes and Adams. “Once the record is transferred, there will be a full hearing on the Petition for Judicial Review. All of the pleadings and evidence will be before the court and the judge will be able to make a proper determination as to whether summary judgment in Ms. Scott’s favor was appropriate.”

In the appeal (petition for judicial review), the county makes a case that Scott’s “unacceptable personal conduct” was just cause for her dismissal. Evidence of the “unacceptable personal conduct” presented in the appeal was Scott’s acceptance of an application for employment after the posted deadline, and Scott’s acquaintance with the applicant.

“Certain key facts are undisputed. Ms. Scott took an application from one of her church members who had approached her at church and inquired about the possibility of employment; the application was taken weeks after the deadline had closed,” Haynes and Adams said. The lawyers further stated that Scott, when asked about the acceptance of the late application, “invented a story for the Board that the application had actually been submitted on time, but was lost.  This is unacceptable personal conduct…We believe these facts, and others, will cause a judge at the hearing on the Petition for Judicial Review to reverse the decision of the administrative law judge which granted reinstatement and full back pay.”

Elkins ruled on Dec. 20 that the respondents offered “no other evidence to support the contention that, at the time [the applicant] submitted his application, Petitioner [Scott] had any motive to ‘bend’ or ‘break’ the rules in favor of [the applicant], or that she ‘served her personal interests’ or what those interests even were.”

 “We’ve just got to let it run its course,” Carmon said. “We feel like we’ve done things that we need to and it’s up to the courts at this point to determine the direction we need to take.”