A lawyer who claimed she was fired by the former Board of County Commissioners for political retribution after working for Frederick County for 21 years is now back on staff.

The county rehired Wendy Kearney on May 1 as a senior assistant county attorney as part of a settlement agreement in a wrongful termination case. Kearney had filed the complaint in court against the former board, which was led by Blaine Young. She previously worked for the county as an assistant and deputy county attorney from Sept. 6, 1989, to Feb. 25, 2011.

County Executive Jan Gardner said she gave legal staff direction on how to move forward with the settlement, and she is pleased to have Kearney back. Gardner defeated Young in the county executive’s race last year.

“I thought she did a good job when she was here,” said Gardner, who worked with Kearney in her previous terms as a commissioner. “And she will continue to do a good job.”

Kearney said she is glad to be back.

“I would like to say I’m grateful for the opportunity to return serving the citizens of Frederick County,” she said.

Under the April 28 settlement agreement, which The Frederick News-Post received Monday in response to a Maryland Public Information Act request, Kearney was rehired at a salary of $129,375. Her salary in 2010, her last full year with the county, was $118,350.74.

In her original January 2014 claim filed in Frederick County Circuit Court, which later was moved to U.S. District Court, Kearney explained why she believes she was fired for political retribution. She had defended the county on land-use and development issues under the previous board, which was led by Gardner, in a role that was “directly adverse to the interests of the local developers and builders,” which had helped the Young board get elected, she said. Kearney asked for her job back, along with $75,000 and additional funds for interest and other damages.

The county stated in a court document that there was no retribution or retaliation. Kearney’s position was eliminated as a way to save money; it had been recommended as one of 38 positions to be eliminated in February 2011 under budget cuts, the document states.

The county redacted 10 of the 22 paragraphs in the settlement agreement. The redacted paragraphs dealt with subjects considered personnel matters, said Linda Thall, a senior assistant county attorney. Thall said she could not comment on those paragraphs, but in general, the county typically redacts information related to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment, such as benefits, along with waivers of claims.

Kearney did not receive any lump-sum payment, as no payment was mentioned, and Thall said that any part of an agreement involving a payment would not be redacted.

The county found money in the last fiscal year’s budget to rehire Kearney and pay her salary from May 1 to July 1, Gardner said. Her position was then funded in full in Gardner’s proposed budget for fiscal 2016, which started July 1.

Councilman Kirby Delauter, who was a commissioner when Kearney was fired, questions the timing of Kearney’s court filing and settlement.

In the first few months after she was fired, Kearney appealed the county’s decision twice, once in March 2011 and once in April 2011. Both times, the appeal was denied.

Kearney waited two years and nine months before filing her case in court. She filed her case in January 2014, two months after Gardner announced she was running for county executive.

Kearney declined to comment on the timing of the case. For the three years she didn’t work for the county, she worked at a private practice in Westminster, she said.

Councilman Billy Shreve, who was also a commissioner at the time Kearney was fired, said he wonders why the county reached a settlement with Kearney and not others who may have filed grievances against the board when all of the cutbacks happened.

“It seems odd that someone from the county attorney’s office would reach a settlement,” he said.

He said he also questions why the county suddenly needs another lawyer. With Kearney, there are five other county attorneys. Delauter said he is also not sure the county needed another lawyer.

Gardner said the legal staff has plenty to do.

Shreve said he believes Gardner brought Kearney on to work specifically for her office, but Gardner said that is not the case. Kearney reports to attorney John Mathias, she said.

Kearney said she is currently working on cases related to public safety, such as with the Division of Fire and Rescue Services, as well as other jobs that come along. She said she will eventually work on land-use issues again.

Kearney said she is glad to be back working in Frederick. She has lived in the county since 1986.

“This is home,” she said. “It’s a great place to be.”

Staff writer Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.

Follow Jen Fifield on Twitter: @JenAFifield.

(43) comments

MAVRICKinc7

Why is our commenting audience so easily led to revenge tactics and using a basic business decision CE Gardener has made and make it into something Wendy Kearney is not. After serving Frederick County for 21 years in legal consultation she should represent something more than a spearhead or battering ram to be thrown at OUR own past mistakes.

Why not use her skills in the best interest of Frederick County and let the chips fall where they may, without agendas, conditions or silly grudge match strategies.

Part of our goal is to advance Frederick County to its highest POTENTIAL, and Ms Kearney may or may not contribute to that end. She does not need to be weilded like a doubled edged sword against what WE allowed to happen to her in the first place.

Let's let her do her JOB first. If she's as good at it, as we are speculating on now, then history will take care of itself and we'll be better off for having said so in 2015, and a hiring decision Jan has made in her capacity as County Executive and what she knows of Ms Kearney and her credentials, to get her assigned job accomplished and without vendettas being strewn before her by those who leap BEFORE seeing where they are going in the first place. It's only fair to her and US not to rush to judgement. Haven't we had enough of that to contend with in our life times?

KellyAlzan

She has been rehired to replace Mathias.

DogCatcher

I hope you're right (Fingers crossed!)

armillary

If Jan settled this outstanding suit against the county, with apparently zero damages paid, plus gained a very qualified attorney in the process, I think that counts as a twofer.

So you're predicting a hat trick.

elymus43

These kind of things keep costing the county taxpayers money.

DeDeuceCoupe32

Blajne did everything wrong, Jan does everything right. Gullible crowd these these fredericktonians.

DickD

Read Nicki's comment, I think she has it exactly right.

Nicki

One big difference is that Jan doesn't line her own pockets. Hiring to help achieve your goals makes good sense to me but this happens to be a typical settlement whereas the employee gets her job back after being wrongly fired-- which may be a good deal for tax payers.
A monetary award could have been significantly larger.
This is only one of the messes Jan has had to clean up.

DeDeuceCoupe32

People lose their jobs every day. Let the court decide on this case judge Jan.

timothygaydos

Really no difference between Jan and Blaine - both will spend $$$ that they do not have for their friends in politics to help them with their goals while in office at the expense of the tax payers and try to convince us that it is for the good of all of us.

MAVRICKinc7

But wasn't the defeat of Blaine Young for the "good of all of us?"

save1more4jesus

Dotting "i" crossing "t" again. Good for you Wendy.

Hayduke2

Wow, imagine that she went to bat for a Comprehensive Plan that was well vetted, had lots of public input, and showed reasonable growth priorities. The prior BOCC had no interest in following the Comp Plan because it didn't mirror their supporters who supplied the money to get them in office. As the FNP notes "She had defended the county on land-use and development issues under the previous board, which was led by Gardner, in a role that was “directly adverse to the interests of the local developers and builders,” which had helped the Young board get elected, she said."

BstD59

Thank you CE Gardner for righting yet another wrong. I agree with the many on here who hope you continue to clean house and show Mathias the door. Shreve and Delauter already know where it is, it's been beckoning them for quite some time now, and they keep inching toward it.

DickD

Jan has gotten the County our of another mess, created by the Blaine gang. Thank you, Jan. Welcome back, Wendy.

richardlyons

Well done Jan. Now about County Attorney Mathias, why is he still around?

Nicki

Seriously, NeilY?
The last BOCC was the dictatorship.

Nicki

Kudos, Wendy!

DeDeuceCoupe32

$130,000. Where did Jan find that, in an old coffee can. For her next act, she will pull a rabbit out of a thimble.

bmclearen

Probably from some of the money she saved by demoting Blaine's old girl friend. Frankly, I think she should have been fired instead of demoted.

DickD

She quit anyway, didn't she?

neilyoungfan25

The dictatorship in Frederick County is really looking scary. [ohmy]

DickD

You mean the old one of the Blaine gang or the new one that Blaine set up with Charter government? The new one is only scary if we get another idiot like Blaine running the County.

DickD

http://www.frederickgorilla.com/charter-government

By Teresa Bell-Stockman
In this article, Blaine Young advocates charter government.
"According to Blaine Young, BOCC president, Frederick County is at a crossroads, and the road Young thinks it should take is in the direction of a strong county executive, like that of the 10 Maryland counties—including Baltimore City, which has county-like standing— that currently have charter governments."

“We need to be able to make the rules that we live under,” Thomas Browning, owner of Locust Grove Farm in Mount Airy, tells theFrederick Gorilla. “That’s fundamental.”

Browning is one of 12 appointees (including three alternates) to an all-volunteer county Charter Board that has been tasked by Frederick’s Board of County Commissioners to write a charter document for the voters’ consideration.

“I hear people are most concerned about the responsibilities and authorities of the executive,” Browning explains, adding that people are “afraid of the potential concentration of power.”

Considerable feedback also centers around a “strong” executive versus a “weak” executive, Aquilino says. She, too, is concerned about this feature. “If it is a weak executive,” she says, “it would be just like a county manager. We need somebody in Annapolis with power to make decisions on the spot.”

“It will be the executive’s responsibility to administer the government,” Coffey says.

BlueDawn666

Councilman Kirby Delauter, who was a commissioner when Kearney was fired, questions the timing of Kearney’s court filing and settlement.

So now you know how Wendy felt when her position was terminated. The county stated in a court document that there was no retribution or retaliation. Kearney’s position was eliminated as a way to save money just coincidentally right around the time the BoCC, with the exception of David Gray, were trying to kiss-up to the developers, didn't need someone like Wendy who was trying to c@ck-block them. So they got rid of her...

Glad you are back....when you want a job done right send a woman to do it.

DickD

BlueDawn, you are being sexist![thumbdown]

MCEDDE21

"Sexist"? Perhaps. But, by god, we sure needed the infusion of talent we got with Jan, MC, and Jessica--and now Wendy (and many others, too numerous to mention! If I had been excluded from the process so completely as our women have been, maybe I'd be feeling a little "sexist", too. [smile]

b1sellers

[thumbup]

DickD

I support both of them, I mean the comment; ".when you want a job done right send a woman to do it."

Hayduke2

Come on man! I believe that statement was made with a bit of "tongue in cheek" sentiment... Please don't take offense but, Dick, you really don't have to respond to every comment.

phydeaux994

[thumbup]

lobo4109

I also believe that she will replace Mathias. She is exactly what this county needs. Honesty. We need attorneys that will follow our county laws and make everyone accountable. She will do this. Welcome back Wendy. Now, we are getting somewhere.

DickD

Congratulations, Wendy.

public-redux

“It seems odd that someone from the county attorney’s office would reach a settlement,” he said.

Because...?

MCEDDE21

Shreve:"It seems odd that someone from the county attorney's office would reach a settlement," he said. WHAT? That's what attorneys do. They make settlements. Of course, if you're asking whether the settlement is proper, you must direct your inquiries to the County Attorney, John Mathias. Then, if you decide that there is something wrong with the settlement, you must impeach those in the attorney's office who made it and/or approved it--starting with your old buddy John Mathias.

armillary

Another wrong righted. It's great to see Jan's progress repairing the damage done by the previous BOCC. Keep up the good work!

bmclearen

Could it be that Blaine, the Blainettes and the realtors had something going on that they didn't want revealed!!! Dig deeper and you will uncover the truth.

FrederickFan

As always, Billy and Kirby are clueless and have nothing useful to add. The legal staff is busy cleaning up the many lawsuits they helped to create.

matts853

I hope this is the first step in getting rid of Mathias, and I hope he takes Shrelauter with him - It will save the county child care costs.

DickD

Good question, that thought crossed my mind too, as I read the article.

Sallyforth

Now Gardner needs to assign Kearney to dig up stuff on Shreeve and Delauter until they are run out of politics.

MCEDDE21

Yes. It's time for our county's legal staff to start protecting the interests of the government and the citizens, instead of the developers.

DickD

Good idea.[thumbup]

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