Former Rural Hall Town Manager Megan Garner is suing a town council member, accusing her of making false statements that Garner had stolen money and was having an affair with a married Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy. In the lawsuit, filed last week in Alamance County, Garner says that Susan Gordon, who is the town’s mayor pro tem, made false statements at a meeting of the Rural Hall Historical Society in June 2021 that spread throughout the small town and helped ruin Garner’s professional reputation.
This is the latest in a complex web of legal litigation that started late last year after an Oct. 21, 2021, meeting where Garner, three council members and the town’s attorney all abruptly resigned. Those resignations came after the three council members — John McDermon, Ricky Plunkett and Jesse Stigall — approved a nearly $150,000 settlement agreement for Garner, who accepted a job as city manager in Graham the next day. Garner never got the money, however, because the amount exceeded the town’s transactional limits.
Still, town officials filed a lawsuit against Garner in November 2021, accusing her and the three council members of violating state law and town protocols in negotiating and approving the settlement agreement, also known as a severance package. Then, in December, Randy James, the town’s interim attorney, filed an amended lawsuit that added allegations that Garner violated town ethical rules by having an affair with now-former fire chief Andy Marshall, who reported directly to Garner. Garner has denied those allegations, but Marshall’s ex-wife, Stacy Marshall, has since filed an alienation of affection lawsuit against Garner.
People are also reading…
Garner has previously alleged in a counter-claim that town officials, including Gordon, current town manager Misty Meadows and Jason Hill, the town’s public works director, had engaged in a sexist smear campaign against her that ultimately forced her to get an attorney, negotiate a settlement agreement and leave the job.
But in the latest lawsuit, filed June 10 in Alamance Superior Court, Garner’s attorneys, Valerie Bateman and Julie K. Allison, name only Gordon as a defendant.
The new lawsuit filed in Alamance County alleges that Gordon, who voted against the settlement agreement in October, made false statements that Garner misappropriated $1.5 million from town coffers and that legal service was done in connection with a purported affair Garner was having with a married Forsyth County sheriff’s deputy. The lawsuit said Gordon made these statements to a group gathered on June 13, 2021, for a meeting of the Rural Hall Historical Society.
“Defendant knew these statements to be false at the time the statements were made,” the complaint said.
Bateman and Allison allege that Gordon further told the group that Garner, as town manager, had “provided crappy spreadsheets to the town council which was a fabulous way to hide money.”
Gordon “further stated orally at the meeting on June 13, 2021, that Plaintiff had been served with a legal process in connection with an affair with a married Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy.” Gordon, Bateman and Allison allege, knew that that statement was also false.
Garner said that these “slanderous allegations made by Defendant” were spread all over Rural Hall, according to the complaint.
Bateman and Allison said that Gordon should have known that revenue and expenditure reports that were provided to the Rural Hall Town Council were pulled each month directly from the town’s accounting software. And the town’s independent auditor “certified to the Town Council on November 8, 2021, that there were no missing funds.”
The complaint that news media contacted Garner about “missing $1.5 million dollars,” which resulted in Garner’s embarrassment and humiliation. The news media also published articles about the alleged missing money that also embarrassed and humiliated Garner, the complaint alleges.
State Treasurer Dale Folwell announced last year that he had asked State Auditor Beth Wood to look into the rumors about missing money. Wood’s office would neither confirm nor deny whether there was going to be an investigation, and Wood has not made any further announcement.
When reached Tuesday morning, Gordon said she didn’t have much to say and referred questions to her attorney.
“I greatly appreciate your call but I will have to have my attorney answer all of this for me because I don’t understand any of what she is saying,” Gordon said.
When asked, Gordon didn’t immediately know the name of her attorney or the law firm for which her attorney worked. She called back later and said all questions should be referred to James.
James said Tuesday afternoon that the lawsuit is simply a rehash of claims she made in her initial counter complaint. The only difference now, he said, is that she is suing Gordon.
Garner’s attorneys voluntarily dismissed without prejudice most of those claims in her counter complaint. Garner’s attorneys filed an amended counter complaint and motion to dismiss that was focused on the legality of the settlement agreement.
James also said that Garner’s attorneys should have filed the lawsuit in Forsyth County, not Alamance.
James said many of the statements Garner claims Gordon made were in the context of asking why she had not received certain financial information from Garner. Gordon has the right to ask those questions, James said.
James said he has seen no evidence that Gordon made any reference to an alleged affair with a married Forsyth County deputy. He said he had subpoenaed people who had allegedly recorded Gordon’s statements and he has received one recording in which Gordon makes no statement about an affair.
“Until I have corroborated evidence, which I have not seen, the allegations are denied,” James said.
Garner is seeking at least $25,000 in compensatory damages and an unknown amount of punitive damages, the lawsuit said.
Former Rural Hall Town Manager Megan Garner claims town council member spread false rumors in new lawsuit.