Johnston CIty Wins Round in Water Clerk Legal Battle


By Fanna Haile-Selassie
By Randy Livingston

JOHNSTON CITY -- Johnston City gets a win in an ongoing battle with its former water clerk. An arbitrator has ruled Johnston City had the right to fire water supervisor Jayne Stallings. 

"The termination and everything was upheld in favor of the city," explains Mayor Jim Mitchell.
The arbitrator's decision knocks the legs out from under Stallings' union claim that she was wrongfully terminated.
"I think it vindicates us quite a bit," Mitchell adds.
But that's not stopping her civil lawsuit against him, Johnston City, and former Water Alderman Greg Yelencich. In it, she argues Johnston City fired her without cause, and the mayor and former alderman caused her great emotional distress by smearing her name.
"It's not an easy thing. I considered us all to be good friends," says Mitchell. "We all went to church together. I don't know how hard it is on them, but it's certainly been hard on me and my family."
He says the 12-year-employee was suspended in October 2011 after she was suspected of stealing money from the water department and falsifying the books. Fourteen months later, she was fired.
"One thing the arbitrator points out is that she messed up the books so bad, it's hard for anybody to come up with a total."
According to the arbitration documents, when a customer came in to pay their water bill, one part of their receipt went with them, the other went with the money and into Stallings' pocket.
The allegations are similar to what happened in Marion, when water manager Linda Heyde was caught on camera doing the same thing. Only, Johnston City didn't have surveillance cameras. Now, the water department is riddled with them. But it won't help officials uncover just how much money was taken.
"It doesn't matter the total so much, we can prove felonies without having the totals," says Mitchell.
The Johnston City Police Department has been tracking down water customers to build a case. Mitchell hopes that evidence will help the city win, not just round two, but the entire fight.
News 3 tried to reach both Stallings' attorney and the union attorney, neither returned our call.
Mitchell says the police department plans to hand over its evidence to the state's attorney within the next couple of months. As for the lawsuit, depositions are set to begin the first week of April.
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