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March 14, 2013

County loses Scott appeal

TARBORO — Edgecombe County lost its appeal in Edgecombe County Superior Court to terminate Marva Scott as director of the department of social services.

The loss perhaps brings an end to the saga between the county and Scott that began on Dec. 19, 2011 when she was placed on administrative leave for 30 days. Scott was never called back and was issued a termination letter Feb. 23, 2012. While the county continued its fight, a judge ruling ordered her back to work December 2012.

Scott filed a civil suit alleging she was unjustifiably terminated and that took the battle into the courtroom.  

A third judge ordered Scott's attorney to prepare the order and later present it to the court, said District 7 Trial Court Administrator Bill Nichols. The county will be allowed to object to the order if it is not satisfied. Nichols explained that the procedure is ordinary. Not knowing exactly what the order will contain, Leonard Wiggins, chairman of the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners said his board is waiting on the document.

Before Monday's appeal, two prior judges had ruled in Scott's favor. On Dec. 20, 2012, Judge Augustus B. Elkins II ordered Scott to be reinstated at the same rate of pay, and also back pay dating back to her termination. He also ruled that $62,750 in attorneys’ fees be awarded to Scott. In a court order dated Feb. 24, 2013, Superior Court Judge Alma L. Hinton denied the county's motion to stay and upheld Elkins' decision.

During the first hearing, the county argued that Scott’ had “unacceptable personal conduct,” contending she violated a “known and written work rule” by accepting a late employment application for an open Social Worker II position, doing so because she “knew the applicant personally” and that the two went to church together. The county also contended that Scott lied to the Department of Social Service Board by telling them the application had been submitted on time, but had been lost.

Elkins ruled Scott “made no intentional decision to select the applicant over any other qualified candidate” and that she did not take part in the decision to select the applicant for the position, except to “sign off” on the interview team’s decision, as was her customary practice in all previous hiring processes. The decision came after Scott contended at an Aug. 29, 2012 summary judgment hearing that the county did not have “just cause” to terminate her.

Scott was hired as director in March 2007.

"We will fulfill our obligation according to what the court decision are," Wiggins, said.

 

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