Fired official sues county for $7 million

July 12, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

A former county government administrator has filed a federal lawsuit for more than $7 million against Harford County and its personnel director, charging he was improperly fired when his position was abolished in an administrative shuffle.

Joseph V. DiGiacinto, a former deputy director at the department of public works, contends in the suit that he was entitled to a pre-termination hearing or post-termination hearing when he was fired Feb. 28.

He says he was fired immediately after meeting with the public works director and the county's human resources director and had received no warning that he would lose his job.

"He was totally, absolutely blind-sided," said Mr. DiGiacinto's lawyer, Victor K. Butanis.

The attorney said Harford County violated the constitutional right that all classified government employees have to a hearing before they are terminated.

The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, names the county and Randall J. Schultz, the human resources director, as defendants.

It seeks $7.65 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Mr. Schultz said he could not comment on the suit because the matter was in litigation. However, he said, the county restructured its public works department to make it operate more efficiently.

He said another deputy director's position also was eliminated in the reorganization to reduce the number of deputy posts in the department from five to three.

The shuffle placed Mr. DiGiacinto's job functions under the public works department's deputy director of engineering. Capital projects, developmental services and traffic control also were moved into the expanded engineering division.

Mr. DiGiacinto had been a county deputy director for two years. According to court papers, he had no idea that he would be fired when he reported to work on Feb. 28. His termination was effective that day.

The letter he received from Mr. Schultz, filed in court documents, said he was not qualified to become deputy director of the engineering division and that the county had no other positions available for him.

Mr. DiGiacinto also contends that the county would not be able to eliminate his position without abolishing the job classification under which his job was listed.

Mr. Butanis said the other official fired by the county was Martha Campbell.

Ms. Campbell was deputy director of traffic and transportation until last September, when she was named acting deputy director of environmental affairs. She was fired July 1.

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