Former town clerk files defamation suit

HARPERS FERRY – The former town clerk of Harpers Ferry has filed a lawsuit alleging that the former mayor and treasurer made “deliberately false statements” that she had misappropriated the town’s funds.

Brenda Smith is seeking as-yet undetermined damages from the town of Harpers Ferry, and from former Mayor James Addy, and former Treasurer Shauna Johnstone for statements Johnstone made on an insurance claim while under Addy’s supervision, according to a complaint filed last month in Jefferson County Circuit Court.
Smith’s tenure as town clerk was terminated on April 27, 2011. In subsequent weeks it was revealed that around $75,000 in overdue water bills were owed to the town, and much of that debt had been in arrears for months. Initial reports from a confidential source had put the amount of debt at $150,000.
On May 13, Johnstone filed a property loss notice with Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America that claimed the town had sustained a $150,000 loss, according to Smith’s complaint.
“The town filed a claim on a bond stating that they suffered a loss of an estimated amount of $150,000, due to ‘misappropriation of funds’ … by Brenda Smith,” said Brett Offutt, Smith’s attorney. “The town of Harpers Ferry has accused Brenda Smith of basically stealing money, which did not occur.”
“The real issue here is some water and sewer bills that were not collected – and, of course, Brenda Smith had nothing to do with the sewer bills – and there was no theft of funds involved. And yet that’s what the town, Shauna Johnstone, reported to the bonding company when they filed a claim and tried to collect on that.”
Joe Anderson, Harpers Ferry’s current mayor, said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the case. Greg Bailey, the town’s attorney, and Jeffrey Molenda, Addy and Johnstone’s attorney, could not be reached by press time.
“You have a longtime, valued employee of the town and it is unfortunate … that the town would make deliberately false statements accusing an employee like that of acts that did not occur,” Offutt said. “It is disheartening that elected officials and other public servants would act in such a manner.”


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