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Melani OKs receiving counseling

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By Debra Erdley and Luis Fábregas
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Prosecutors agreed to drop assault and trespassing charges against former Highmark Inc. CEO Ken Melani if he completes counseling, his defense attorney Robert Del Greco said on Tuesday, even as Melani's employment lawyer explored options against the health insurer.

"In order to bring (criminal charges) to an expeditious conclusion in the most businesslike manner, Dr. Melani has decided to move for a postponement and commence the standard protocol of counseling that will lead to a withdrawal of the charges," defense attorney Robert Del Greco Jr. said in a statement.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office confirmed the agreement would postpone for 60 days a preliminary hearing that was scheduled for this morning.

Downtown attorney Sam Cordes, who represents Melani and his mistress, Melissa Myler, in employment matters, said he is exploring whether Highmark crossed the line into discrimination and retaliation for firing Melani and attempting to force Myler to resign.

Myler, who holds what Cordes called an entry level, $40,000 position as a Highmark business analyst, told Cordes that high-level company officials began trying to push her out of the insurance giant's marketing department in February when their relationship became common knowledge at Highmark.

Highmark has declined to discuss employment decisions.

The affair between Melani, 58, and Myler, 28, both of whom are married, made headlines after Oakmont police arrested Melani on March 25 when he fought with Myler's estranged husband Mark, 49, at the Mylers' home.

Highmark's board of directors fired Melani "for cause" on Sunday at an emergency meeting.

Cordes said Melani's dismissal took place about a month after a board member confronted the CEO and ordered him to end his relationship with Myler. Cordes said when Melani refused and offered to resign instead, the director would not accept his resignation.

"And then they proposed option three -- that he fire her," Cordes said.

Cordes said Melani refused and questioned whether such action would be discriminatory.

"You don't fire someone after they've complained that it would be discriminatory to fire someone else," Cordes said. "He did a very courageous thing and offered to resign, but they wanted the little woman fired. ... This is about how women are treated."

Cordes has mounted successful cases against high-profile figures, including judges and politicians, that range from sexual harassment and discrimination cases to violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. In this case, he said he is exploring "every possible legal remedy because what happened to two people was extremely unfair and possibly illegal."

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