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Former Woodland caretaker files suit

A seven-year employee of Woodland Cemetery who was recently fired has filed a wrongful termination suit against the cemetery’s board of trustees, claiming she was fired for being a whistleblower of alleged illegal conduct by the board.

The suit also names one board member specifically, as well as her replacements, for complaints of defamation.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 2 in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court and names Mallory Morgan, former cemetery administrator, as the plaintiff.

Defendants in the case are the board of trustees as a whole; Robert Ackerman, individually and in his official capacity as president of the board; and Mary and William Klaiber, individually and as the new caretakers of the cemetery.

According to the complaint, during Morgan’s employment at the cemetery, she noticed “certain improper/illegal conduct by the board and Ackerman with regard to public contracts, maintenance to cemetery property and equipment, sale of cemetery property and the purchase of certain goods and supplies.”

Mark McCown, the attorney who represented the board during Morgan’s termination, said, “The board feels this is a labor relations matter and will not further comment upon personnel matters.”

As of press time, defendants in the case have not listed an attorney.

Specifically, the complaint alleges Ackerman hired employees from his own business, Country Cabinet Shop Inc., to perform remodeling work on the residence owned by the cemetery, leased his own equipment at high rates, purchased a used building kit from a friend without getting required estimates, purchased excessive amounts of paint all of which could not be accounted. and that Ackerman fraudulently represented he was a disinterested party.

According to the complaint, Morgan allegedly brought her concerns to the board in writing, as well as orally to the mayor and the state auditor’s office.

On June 19, according to the complaint, the board offered Morgan a severance payment to resign and to “release any and all claims she may have had against the board and to ‘keep her mouth shut.’”

Morgan allegedly rejected the proposal and was terminated and evicted from the cemetery residence.

Morgan is also suing on the grounds of defamation and sexual discrimination.

The complaint alleged Ackerman stated on multiple occasions that Morgan “is a woman, she has four kids and this is no job for a woman.”

Current caretakers, the Klaibers, are alleged to have told others Morgan embezzled money from the cemetery, stole other items from the cemetery and is on drugs.

Other claims of the lawsuit include intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful eviction and invasion of privacy.

The plaintiff seeks relief to be determined at a trial, attorney fees, punitive damages and reinstatement to her employment with salary and all benefits.

Morgan is being represented by Steven K. Nord and Ryan Q. Ashworth of the law firm Offutt Nord Burchett in Huntington, W.Va.

Morgan had been employed at the cemetery since 2007. She started as a clerk and was promoted to administrator in 2010.