Former magistrate secretary sues Fayette County for violating her civil rights

| Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Fayette County and its court officials violated a Uniontown woman's civil rights when they fired her as a magistrate's secretary because of her association with a former Masontown police officer, the woman alleges in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

Angela Nicole Shultz, 32, said in the lawsuit that county officials claimed that her boyfriend, a former Masontown police officer, was being investigated for possessing allegedly stolen guns, and that she knew about them.

Her boyfriend hasn't been charged, and she didn't have reason to believe the guns were stolen, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Joel Sansone of Pittsburgh.

Shultz is suing the county, Fayette County Common Pleas Court Administrator Karen Kuhn and Deputy Court Administrator Tammy Lambie.

Lambie on Friday said she had no knowledge of the lawsuit. Kuhn and Al Ambrosini, commissioner chairman, could not be reached for comment.

Shultz was a county employee from 2004 until she was let go on Oct. 18, according to the lawsuit. At the time of her dismissal, she was a secretary for District Judge Randy Abraham in Masontown.

Shultz and a former Masontown police officer, who is identified in the lawsuit as Robert Kelly, share a home in Uniontown. On Sept. 20, at 6:45 a.m., police who were called to the residence alleged that firearms Kelly had stored in a gun cabinet were stolen, according to the lawsuit.

Kelly could not be reached for comment.

Kelly, 31, has not been charged. James Caccimelio, county detective, said the district attorney's office is awaiting results of Uniontown police's investigation into the allegations. A Uniontown police officer, Detective Donald Gmitter, declined to comment on the investigation.

Shultz, according to the lawsuit, had no reason to believe the firearms were stolen when police responded to the call for the domestic dispute.

Although not mentioned in the federal lawsuit, county court records show that Shultz was granted a temporary protection from abuse order on the day of the alleged Sept. 20 domestic dispute at the home she shares with Kelly.

In the application for the order, Shultz alleged Kelly pushed her and held her down during an argument, injuring her finger and breaking a door. She alleged that on previous occasions, Kelly pointed a gun at her and threatened her, leaving her with a broken finger and a black eye.

On Oct. 3, Senior Judge Ralph Warman denied Shultz's request for a final order, finding she failed to prove in a hearing that Kelly engaged in abusive conduct as defined by law.

Kelly was let go from the Masontown Police Department in October for conduct unbecoming to a police officer, said Masontown Chief Joe Ryan. Ryan and Mayor Toni Petrus declined to provide specific details on the conduct that led to Kelly's dismissal.

According to the lawsuit, Lambie went uninvited to Shultz's house the day of the domestic dispute to tell her that her job was safe, but Shultz “was unaware of any reason whatsoever why her employment status would be in jeopardy.”

A month later, on Oct. 18, Kuhn summoned Shultz to a meeting at the courthouse with an unidentified county attorney and an unidentified county detective. Shultz was fired at the meeting, the suit says.

Shultz claims Lambie and Kuhn conspired to fire her, failed to investigate the allegations against Kelly and failed to ask if she was aware of the allegations against Kelly. She alleges they told others that she had knowledge of the alleged stolen firearms, which has made it difficult for her to find another job and has caused her to feel “shame amongst members of her community.”

Shultz is alleging violations of her due process and free association rights. She is seeking damages in excess of $75,000.

Sansone did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media.

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