Former CAO suing for $750,000; claims wrongful termination

Former Erin CAO Frank Miele has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Erin, current CAO Kathryn Ironmonger and former councillors Barb Tocher, Josie Wintersinger and Deb Callaghan.

The statement of claim, which was filed on May 5 in Brampton, seeks damages of $750,000 plus the costs of the legal action.

In the statement, Miele claims his termination from the town on May 7, 2013 was illegal, contrary to his employment contract, and was done “on the basis of a misfeasance of public office and abuse of power of certain councillors and the current CAO (Ironmonger) who was then the clerk of the Town of Erin.”

None of the claims have been proven in court.

The claim states that after Miele was hired, “Tocher, Wintersinger and Callaghan commenced holding illegal council meetings contrary to the provisions of the Act which Ironmonger attended in order to plan the demise of the plaintiff.”

Miele also claims that during the six months he served as CAO the three councillors “devised a plan to ensure that their friend, Ironmonger, obtained the job as the new CAO.”

Miele claims Ironmonger, who had also applied for the CAO position when the town hired him, was “at the bottom” of a “short list” of applicants, yet “the three councillors and Ironmonger created a written resolution … to have (Miele) terminated and have Ironmonger installed as the new CAO.”

Miele claims his “100 Day Report” to council on town operations was used as a performance review when it should not have been according to his contract.

Miele’s claim suggests “it was known” he was planning to downsize staff, as “due to the addition of a new ambulance into Hillsburgh, the volume of calls into the fire department would be reduced.”

The claim refers to a confidential draft report titled “Operational Review Notes for Discussion with Mayor and Council” which was to be presented in a future closed meeting and included possible budget and hour cuts to the fire department and Fire Chief Dan Callaghan, husband of former councillor Deb Callaghan.

Meile claims Deb Callaghan  had conflict of interest in voting to remove Miele as CAO.

A statement of defence has not yet been filed by the town or the other named parties, however a statement of an intention to defend was filed with the court on Sept. 8.

When contacted by the Advertiser, Wintersinger would not comment on the details of the lawsuit.

“I was very surprised by it, yes. There’s, in my estimation, no truth to the whole thing and that’s all I’m going to say,” she said.

Callaghan also said she was surprised by the lawsuit but would not comment on details, adding she doesn’t believe the town has submitted a statement of defence as of yet.  

Both former councillors confirmed they will be fighting the lawsuit.

Callaghan added she was included in the group that is being represented by the town’s lawyer.   

On Sept. 1 Erin council hired Madorin Snyder LLP to defend claims not covered by the town’s insurance policy.

Council went into a closed meeting during its Sept. 15 council meeting. One of the items listed for discussion was “claims status.”

Tocher and Ironmonger could not be reached for comment by press time.