Former executive drops defamation suit against SAAA

By Joe Beck

A former executive with the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging has withdrawn a defamation suit filed against the agency in Warren County Circuit Court.

Ann T. McIntyre, SAAA’s former director of development, decided to withdraw the suit, and retired Judge Gaylord L. Finch Jr., the presiding judge, filed an order of non-suit Thursday, ending the case for now. Finch dismissed the case with prejudice, which gives McIntyre the option of refilling the suit.

Her attorney, Elaine Bredehoft of Reston, did not return a telephone calling seeking comment. Attempts to reach Travis Clark, SAAA’s acting chairman of the board of the directors, were unsuccessful.

SAAA’s attorney, Rosalie Fessier of Staunton, said no settlement was involved in the filing of the order for non-suit.

“It was the plaintiff’s decision to file the non-suit,” Fessier said. “I don’t have any grounds to object to that. Both lawyers endorsed the order.”

McIntyre was one of three agency executives fired in early September 2011. The firings of McIntyre, Helen Cockrell, the agency’s chief executive officer at the time, and Jim Shaffer, former finance director, followed the discovery by agency staff members of dozens of unmailed checks.

Months of investigations, lawsuits and counter lawsuits followed. SAAA’s staff shrunk, and employees and managers took pay cuts to prevent the agency from buckling under the burden of hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Cockrell was indicted earlier this year on four counts of embezzlement linked to her tenure with SAAA.

McIntyre’s lawsuit accused SAAA officials of harming her reputation by making information available for stories appearing in The Northern Virginia Daily and The Winchester Star that reported on her termination.

She said she was fired for allowing a co-worker to buy postage stamps, a violation of agency practices that she insisted had nothing to do with the accusations swirling around Cockrell and Shaffer.

The suit asked for $2.35 million in damages against the agency. Cynthia Palmer, SAAA’s interim executive director; Roberta Lauder, director of resource development; and Marsha LaBrecht, an executive assistant and human resource specialist, were also listed as defendants.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com