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New claims added to former SAAA employee's lawsuit

By Kim Walter

A fourth version of a defamation lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Ann McIntyre, the former director of development for the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, with claims not previously made.

The lawsuit, filed by Elaine Charlson Bredehoft of the Reston firm Charslon Bredehoft Cohen Brown & Sakata, states that three former SAAA employees made false claims against McIntyre in order to "protect and benefit themselves."

McIntyre still seeks $2.35 million in damages from SAAA, due to claims that, as a result of the former employees' actions, she has "suffered and continues to suffer damages," both financial and emotional.

The lawsuit states that, contrary to media and staff reports, McIntyre was not linked to the 81 unmailed checks - totaling close to $265,000 - discovered at the agency's Front Royal headquarters in 2011. SAAA did not have the money to cover the checks, which resulted in the termination of Helen Cockrell, the agency's president and CEO, and finance director James Shaffer.

McIntyre instead claims that she was fired because she gave her SAAA corporate credit card to another employee to use for purchasing postage for mailing that the agency was preparing to send to its patrons and sponsors.

According to the lawsuit, the total postage purchased was about $187, and therefore, "SAAA had no legitimate basis to terminate Ms. McIntyre and did so carelessly, recklessly and maliciously."

The most recent version of the lawsuit -- filed in Warren County Circuit Court last week -- accuses Cindy Palmer, SAAA's former vice president; Roberta Lauder, former director of resource development; and Marsha LeBrecht, Cockrell's executive assistant, of making false claims against McIntyre out of jealousy.

The claims are new to the original lawsuit, filed in October 2011.

According to the suit, the three former employees learned that McIntyre was working to establish ground work and expectations for a successful campaign, which would probably result in McIntyre not only remaining with SAAA, but eventually becoming the agency's CEO and president.

Lauder, Palmer and LeBrecht then acted "outside the scope of their employment with SAAA" and employed "improper means to interfere with Ms. McIntyre's contractual relations and business expectancies with SAAA," the lawsuit alleges.

In August of 2011, the three former employees presented a "Statement of Allegations" to Clarke County Sheriff Anthony Roper. The statement accused McIntyre of inappropriately using SAAA's Housing Line of Credit, mishandling funds and spending extravagantly during cuts, and creating a hostile working environment. According to the lawsuit, the statement also suggested that McIntyre was involved in an "inappropriate relationship" with SAAA Board Director, Jonathan Graves.

Ultimately, the statement implied that McIntyre was "involved in and a cause of" SAAA's financial issues, and she might cause the destruction of the agency, the lawsuit states.

McIntyre goes on to claim that Palmer and Lauder were threatened by her close professional relationships with Cockrell and Graves, as well as the fact that she would likely take over the agency. If it weren't for the submitted statement against McIntyre, she "would not have been terminated from SAAA," according to the lawsuit.

On August 29, 2011, McIntyre was suspended from her position. However, on September 12, 2011, a day before receiving notice of her termination, McIntyre was named in local newspapers as a "top SAAA staff" member who was fired. Several articles from the Winchester Star and the Northern Virginia Daily mentioning McIntyre in connection with the financial woes were included in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the articles wrongly suggest the reason behind McIntyre's terminating, which dealt with paying for postage -- "a wholly separate and distinct issue."

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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