Fired West Virginia Archivist Appeals Dismissal
Fred Armstrong, West Virginia state archivist for 22 years until abruptly being fired last November, is appealing in Kanawha Circuit Court the dismissal of his case, arguing that he deserves a full hearing with the state Public Employees Grievance Board.
Armstrong’s original personnel grievance was dismissed in June by Acting Chief Administrative Law Judge Denise Spatafore because Armstrong was an at-will employee, the Charleston Gazette reported July 17. “An at-will employee may be dismissed for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reasons, unless the employer’s motivation for the discharge is to contravene some substantial public policy,” Spatafore said in her judgment.
State officials have not specified a reason for Armstrong’s termination, although his supervisor, Culture and History Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, said in his deposition that Armstrong was “not a team player” and disrespectful in commission staff meetings. Armstrong, however, believes that the action was taken because of his opposition to a plan to put a café in the archive’s space after physically merging the archive with the state library. “Either or both of these actions would violate state law if they endangered the preservation of public records as required by state code,” argued Armstrong’s attorney, Jim Lees, in the appeal. “If an employee is fired for attempting to insure that his superiors do indeed follow the law, then the firing is a wrongful discharge under state law.”
Posted on July 25, 2008; modified August 11, 2008. Discuss.