QUEENSBURY — A fired employee has filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Warren County, alleging her civil rights were violated.
Ilana “Laney” Morgan filed the complaint in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit names County Attorney Mary Kissane and Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty and claims that Geraghty had a personal bias against her over real estate dealings.
The lawsuit follows a state appeals court decision last month that annulled Morgan’s firing in 2019 and referred the matter back to the county.
The court ruled that Morgan’s due process rights were violated, because Kissane made the allegations against her, testified at her disciplinary hearing and made the final recommendation.
The matter stems from the county’s decision in March 2019 to fire Morgan from her job as a paralegal in the county attorney’s office.
Morgan had been suspended in December 2018, following accusations she used her position to obtain information about a property that was being foreclosed upon, so her boyfriend could determine whether he wanted to buy it.
County leaders accused her of using her position to obtain a state environmental report on the former Able Energy property at 10 Industrial Park Road in Warrensburg. Morgan allegedly used county time and employees for her research and did not disclose her actions.
The lawsuit, filed on March 10 by lawyer Kevin Luibrand, argues that Geraghty had a grudge against Morgan that dates back to 2005, when her boyfriend, Bryan Rounds, supported the candidate running for supervisor against Geraghty.
The dislike of Rounds grew worse in 2017, after Rounds outbid Geraghty on a foreclosed property at 24 Horicon Ave. in Warrensburg, according to court documents. The lawsuit claims Geraghty was “incensed,” because he wanted to buy the parcel, which is next to property he owns at 2 Greene Terrace.
In 2018, Geraghty told Kissane he believes Morgan was using her employment as a legal assistant to have other county employees research the 10 Industrial Park Road property.
“Geraghty’s assertions were false and he knew that they were false or he acted in reckless disregard for the truth, and Kissane never attempted to verify the Geraghty false information and herself acted with reckless disregard of the truthfulness of his assertions,” Luibrand wrote in the lawsuit.
In addition, Luibrand says his client was not interested in buying the property but was asking about the contamination as part of her official duties. A note about contamination, left by the previous county attorney, was attached to the property file, he says.
Luibrand argues Geraghty had significant influence over Kissane, because he was one of the supervisors who supported her in a close vote to appoint her to the position.
Morgan was suspended without pay on Dec. 20, 2018, pending the charges. Glens Falls City School District Superintendent Paul Jenkins was appointed as hearing officer.
Luibrand cited Kissane’s selection of Jenkins as concerning, because the county attorney’s office had provided legal advice to the school district on other matters.
Jenkins found Morgan guilty on eight of the nine disciplinary charges. Luibrand claims his finding was legally insufficient.
“The proof against Morgan was so devoid of factual evidence of wrongdoing that Jenkins was unable to make any findings of fact to support discipline of Morgan as required under Civil Service Law Section 75, and Jenkins instead just summarily restated the Kissane (Notice of Discipline) accusations, made no findings of fact as required by law and recommended termination of Morgan,” Luibrand said.
Luibrand also said the county caused his client emotional distress, because it released information to the media about the disciplinary matter.
The county released the information in response to a Freedom of Information Law request from The Post-Star.
Luibrand is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for Morgan’s lost income and benefits, emotional distress, mental anguish and injuries to her public reputation and character, as well as legal fees.
When contacted, Geraghty declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
The county has referred the matter to its insurance carrier and legal counsel.
“Our Warren County Board of Supervisors has been fully informed as to the developments in this matter, and it is under review as we discuss our options with our legal counsel,” said Rachel Seeber, chairwoman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, in a statement.