2 claim age bias in county firings
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Older and apolitical employees have been pushed aside by Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, according to a lawsuit filed by two former managers in her office.
Stanley M. Kaczmorski was 64 when he was fired early this year, and Carmen Cupelli was 67, according to a lawsuit in U.S. District Court filed Tuesday by attorney Samuel Cordes. They didn't support Ms. Wagner, or anybody else, during her 2011 campaign, and were replaced by younger people who did back the new boss, it said.
"The First Amendment gives you a right not to speak," and discrimination laws bar firings based on the exercise of those rights, said Mr. Cordes. "You can't come in and eliminate employees to make room for political supporters."
The accusations are "frivolous and untrue," countered Brad Korinski, solicitor for the controller's office. "Nothing is factual," he said, adding that the two collected unemployment, are getting pensions and apparently want more.
Mr. Kaczmorski of Ross had been with the office for eight years, and was a tax, asset and weights and measures manager. Mr. Cupelli of Wilkins had been there for 21 years and was a field supervisor.
When Ms. Wagner took office in January, they were furloughed, the suit said, along with "at least six other employees over the age of 50," and replaced with "significantly younger employees." It said they were told the furloughs were for budgetary reasons, but the replacement employees were paid more, leading to the claim of age discrimination.
Mr. Korinski said that of the 86 controller's office employees, 44 are more than 50 years old. "We certainly don't have any issues with age in this office," he said.
The complaint said the plaintiffs were forbidden by former Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty from backing any candidates in 2011. Mr. Korinski said the plaintiffs' administrative claims -- which must be filed before any federal discrimination lawsuit -- did not contain any claim that the firings were politically driven.
First Published November 21, 2012 12:00 am