Court denies ex-employee’s appeal

WOODSTOCK – A former Shenandoah County official did not qualify to grieve termination because she resigned voluntarily in October, a judge has ruled.

Joyce Fadeley claimed in a complaint filed in Shenandoah County Circuit Court that she resigned as zoning administrator Oct. 12 under duress and threat of termination. County officials indicated in a response to the complaint that Fadeley signed the one-line resignation letter of her own free will.

Attorney Melisa Michelsen, of the Harrisonburg firm Litten and Sipe, represented the county. Linden attorney Ronald Speakman represented Fadeley. Judge Alex Iden heard testimony and arguments from both sides in Shenandoah County Circuit Court in mid-December and ultimately ruled at the end of the hearing that Fadeley had signed the letter of resignation voluntarily and therefore, per county regulations, could not pursue the grievance process for termination.

No order reflecting Iden’s decision in the case had been filed with the Shenandoah County Circuit Court as of Wednesday.

Michelsen confirmed Wednesday that Iden had sided with the county and made his ruling by the end of the Dec. 13 hearing. County Administrator Mary T. Price and Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass as well as Fadeley testified, Michelsen recalled. At the end of arguments presented by Speakman and Michelsen, Iden made several findings of fact. Iden found that Fadeley knowingly and voluntarily signed the resignation letter, Michelsen said. Given these findings and per the county regulations, Fadeley did not present a grievable issue, Michelsen said.

“Therefore, Ms. Price’s determination to deny Ms. Fadeley access to the grievance procedure was correct and it was upheld by the court,” Michelsen said.

Virginia code does not allow Fadeley to appeal the judge’s decision in this kind of case, Michelsen said. The attorney prepared the order and submitted it to Speakman to sign. Michelsen said she expects the court to file the order in a matter of days.

County Attorney Jason Ham, also with Litten and Sipe, echoed Michelsen’s recollection of the court proceedings.

“That operates as a judicial finding that (Fadeley’s) claims of duress and of being treated unfairly and being forced to do something – the judge decided that that wasn’t the case,” Ham said. “All of the bad things that Joyce Fadeley said … the judge had decided … that that was not what happened.”

Fadeley accused in her complaint that Price coerced her into signing the letter or threatened to terminate her employment. However, Price stated in documents submitted in the case that Fadeley’s job performance had become an issue over the past year. Price also said she presented Fadeley with the opportunity to resign so as to not affect her efforts to find future employment.

Documents filed in the case reveal actions and information ordinarily concealed from the public. The Virginia Freedom of Information Act allows government bodies to not release to the public any information considered a part of an employee’s personnel record such as employment reviews, disciplinary actions, even resignation letters.