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Newton Falls reinstates fired electric worker

NEWTON FALLS — The Newton Falls Civil Service Commission voted 3-0 this week to reinstate Matthew Evans to his position as a lineman in the electric department after he was fired in December by interim City Manager Pam Priddy.

Priddy claimed Evans violated the village’s bullying and gossip policy by making false statements about her at a council meeting and later badgering her at a meeting.

Evans, who has worked for the village for 7 1/2 years, requested a hearing to get his job back.

He raised questions at a council meeting in December about the health insurance carrier the village was contracting with, and if Priddy had any personal connection to it based on what he said he read on the Better Business Bureau website.

Edward McCoy, chairman of the commission, said the commission voted that Evans, who was fired Dec. 8, be given his job back with back pay.

“We feel what he did was not belligerent. We do not feel it was something he should have been fired over,” McCoy said, adding that Evans needs to be cautious when he presents information and needs to make sure it is accurate.

Evans said after the meeting he was pleased with the decision.

Interim Law Director Alfred Schrader said he presented Priddy’s side of the incident to the commission and he will see what the village wants to do next.

At the Dec. 6 council meeting, Evans spoke under citizens comments as did several other village employees and residents.

Schrader said Evans spoke at that meeting alleging Priddy had a business relationship with WJL, the insurance company, and its owner, Debbie Lovell. He said Evans claimed that Priddy was connected with the company.

“This was not true. He did not bother to check his facts when he spoke at a public meeting and made comments that were not true that went out on the airwaves. Mr. Evans made no effort to determine if it was or not before he made those statements,” Schrader said, noting Evans did not talk to Priddy before the meeting about his concerns.

Priddy said she originally just wanted to speak to Evans, not terminate him, but she said he was belligerent, brash and repeatedly interrupted her during the meeting so she explained his violation of the policies and how the false statements to council started further gossip and comments. She then terminated Evans.

Priddy said she does know Lovell, who she said had at one time worked for her. Priddy said she contacted the Better Business Bureau to remove her name from the internet site that contained false information about her being the president of WJL.

She said before she retired five years ago, she was the president / owner of Healthcare Plan Administrators but the company is no longer in operation.

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