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Former employee sues Uniontown library, director

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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A former Uniontown Public Library employee has filed a federal lawsuit against the library and its director, alleging political discrimination and violation of the state whistle-blower act.

Pittsburgh attorney Edward A. Olds filed the suit against Lynne Santoliquido Singer Tharan on Monday on behalf of Vicki Leonelli of Uniontown.

Named in the suit are the city of Uniontown and library board President W. Lawrence Bush.

Leonelli, who worked at the library for 18 years, was in charge of its Pennsylvania Room, according to the suit.

It describes Tharan, the library director since 2008, as “a politically active person” with “pronounced Republican/Tea Party-like leanings.”

The suit claims Tharan “brought her politics, her political views and prejudices to the library.”

“Tharan took advantage of her position as the library's director to proselytize her political views. She routinely and frequently circulated political material by way of emails or postings,” the suit states.

Bush and Uniontown city solicitor J.W. Eddy did not return calls for comment.

Tharan said she was aware of the lawsuit and intended to meet with Bush on Tuesday morning.

“We have no comment at this time,” Tharan said.

Leonelli contacted city Councilman Blair Jones regarding Tharan's “failure to conduct the library's business in an acceptable manner,” including her alleged “endless political harassment,” the suit stated.

She later met with Bush, advising him that Tharan “permitted vulgarities, allowed homeless people to camp out in the library” and mishandled the situation when Tharan discovered a revolver in a paper bag in the children's library more than a year ago, it alleged.

“Tharan defended patrons' rights to carry revolvers in the library,” the suit said.

It said Leonelli was fired in July for being “insubordinate.”

Leonelli claims Tharan “harbored ill-will against Leonelli, who is a Democrat, by virtue of their political differences.”

The suit says Tharan is active in Tea Party/Republican circles, and allegedly tried to impose her “far-right ideological viewpoints upon Leonelli and other library staff members.”

Her political affiliation and “whistle-blowing activity” led to Leonelli's firing, the suit alleges.

It claims Leonelli was denied her right to due process because she did not receive a hearing before the board prior to her termination. It alleges Leonelli has suffered lost wages, humiliation, anxiety and stress. She is seeking a jury trial and requests “all appropriate relief,” including damages and attorney fees.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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