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Shenandoah County Library ready to move on from lawsuit

By Sally Voth svoth@nvdaily.com

Defendants in the $14.35 million lawsuit filed by the Shenandoah County Library's former director expressed relief Friday that a judge had tossed the case out of U.S. District Court.

$14.35 million was the amount Robert Pasco said he deserved after claiming his civil rights were violated. Pasco was fired as library head two years ago following a confrontation with library technology director James Dallas Moore.

According to Pasco's complaint, tension had been brewing because of Moore's "unnatural interest" in Pasco's boyfriend, Keith Brown, who also worked at the library in Edinburg.

In October 2010, according to the suit, Pasco and Moore tussled over two external hard drives Moore had grabbed. The hard drives were smashed when Moore threw them to the floor.

Pasco fired Moore, but the library board of trustees re-instated him, and fired Pasco.

Moore, the board of trustees, the library and Board Chairman Hank Zimmerman were all named in the complaint, which claimed the seizure of the hard drives violated his constitutional rights, that the other parties committed "computer trespass," and that Moore's alleged assault of him was condoned by the board.

U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski disagreed, dismissing the case last week. In a memorandum opinion, the judge states it's possible that Moore violated state law, but had not violated any federal laws.

"As there can be no plausible claim that this interpersonal tantrum was motivated by state action, the federal claim asserted must be dismissed," the opinion states.

Acting on his own, Moore cannot violate the Fourth, Fifth or Fourteenth amendments, according to the opinion.

"The dispute at the center of this case concerns issues of Virginia, and not federal, law," it states.

Defendants reached Friday were eager to put the case behind them.

"I feel that the library board, the trustees, Sandy Whitesides -- the director -- the library staff and the volunteers, we've kept our focus and tried to keep our mind on doing what's right for the library system," Zimmerman said. "That's really what we've tried to maintain through the whole situation."

His comments were echoed by Whitesides.

"We're happy to have the decision and be able to move on from where we were," he said in a phone interview.

Harrisonburg attorney Melisa Michelsen represented several of the defendants.

"We're pleased that the library can now focus on library business," she said. "The library never felt that there was any federal issues involved in Mr. Pasco's departure from the library."

Pasco couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

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