Former employee heads back to work following termination lawsuit

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A formerly laid off county employee will be heading back to work later this month, as a year-long lawsuit between the Cass County and its employee union appears to be coming to a close.

The Cass County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to accept a settlement agreement between the county government and the Cass County Independent Employees Association, representing former county employee Debra Troche, during the board’s regular meeting Thursday evening in Cassopolis. Per the terms of the agreed upon settlement:

• Troche will be reinstated as an employee with the county government, taking a position as a receptionist with the Friend of the Court office at the county Law and Courts Building. Her seniority with the county will also be restored. Troche will return to work beginning on Nov. 30, 2015.

• The county will pay Troche $20,000.

• Troche and the CCIEA will release any further claims against the county, including an age discrimination charge by Troche against the county.

The commissioners agreed to the terms of the settlement following an extensive closed session Thursday night with their attorney, Douglas Callander. Callander, on behalf of Board of Commissioners Chair Bernie Williamson and County Administrator Roger, submitted the tentative settlement to the CCIEA Tuesday afternoon, following more than three hours of negotiation with the union, Callander said.

The settlement ostensibly concludes the unfair labor practice lawsuit between Cass County and the CCIEA, which has been ongoing since Troche’s dismissal following the passage of the 2015 budget in August 2014.

Before she was laid off, Troche had been employed as office manager in the county administrator’s office. When developing the budget for his office for the upcoming year last summer, Administrator Fraser eliminated funding for Troche’s position in the proposed 2015 budget. While the board voted to retain dollars for her position while adopting the budget and Fraser later laid off Troche, prompting the CCIEA to take action against the county.

Prior to entering closed session Thursday, Commissioners Skip Dyes, Robert Wagel, Robert Ziliak and Roseann Marchetti approved a motion by Dyes to vote on whether or not to renew Fraser’s contract with the county. Following the vote on the settlement agreement, though, the board voted to table the motion, pending further discussion with the administrator.