MANSFIELD — A federal judge has denied two Richland County Children Services motions to dismiss civil claims filed by a doctor who formerly worked with the agency.
Judge Patricia Gaughan did grant the agency’s motion to dismiss a third claim.
Kurt Buckner, who used to work at Family Life Counseling and Psychiatric Services, filed suit against Children Services Executive Director Randy Parker and attorney Edith Gilliland. He lists three claims — defamation, intentional interference with an employment relationship and negligent investigation.
Gaughan dismissed the third claim in a ruling filed Feb. 10.
Last week, the Children Services board voted to place Parker, who has been with the agency since August 2002, on paid administrative leave. Board members have not given a reason for the move.
The Buckner suit arose out of an October 2010 encounter between the plaintiff and Gilliland. Buckner was a supervisor for Family Life Counseling’s multisystemic therapy program and a mental health liaison interventionist for Children Services.
According to Buckner’s defamation claim, he parked his car next to Gilliland’s because he saw her and wanted to talk to her about a case. Buckner maintained Gilliland had presented inaccurate information to juvenile court.
Gilliland reportedly told Buckner, whom she didn’t know, that she thought it was odd he approached her in the parking lot and she felt as if he were stalking her. Buckner said he ended the encounter and drove away.
Buckner claimed Gilliland then falsely told the agency that he had blocked her progress. A short time later, Children Services sent a fax to Family Life Counseling, telling Buckner he was not welcome at the agency and would be removed from cases involving agency clients.
Buckner claimed because of the loss of work and damage to his reputation, he was compelled to resign from Family Life Counseling.
In the agency’s response, attorney Cheri Hass argued Parker and Gilliland were entitled to immunity as political subdivision employees. She cited Ohio law, which says such employees are immune from liability unless:
» The employee’s acts or omissions were outside the scope of the employee’s employment or official responsibilities.
» The acts or omissions were with malicious purpose, in bad faith or in a wanton or reckless manner.
» Civil liability is expressly imposed upon the employee by a section of Ohio law.
“Even assuming this allegation to be true, it nevertheless fails to support a claim of willful, malicious and reckless behavior,” Hass wrote.
As for going to Parker, Hass wrote, “These allegations reflect that Gilliland engaged in a conditionally privileged communication with her employer due to a perceived safety threat.”
The judge dismissed the claim for negligent investigation by Parker because Ohio does not recognize that tort. Buckner said Parker did not review video footage of the parking lot incident.
On the defamation and intentional interference with an employment relationship claims, the judge ruled Buckner presented sufficient facts and ruled against dismissal.
Buckner, who lives in North Carolina, is seeking more than $75,000.