State commission settles with former director over defamation lawsuit
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - After years of conflict in the court system, commission members for the state agency that provides services for disabled and special needs adults have settled a wrongful termination case filed by its former director.
The terms of the agreement include a $250,000 payment for damages and rescission of the March 1, 2021 termination letter sent to Mary Poole.
In that letter, the commission that runs the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs accused her of mishandling a sexual harassment case, which prompted the legal battle in the first place.
The settlement paperwork also reveals that Poole’s separation will be changed from “termination” to “resignation” allowing her to be eligible for rehire.
But she did agree she would not seek reinstatement as the director in the future.
As part of the deal, the commission and four individual members named in the lawsuit made no admission of wrongdoing.
There is also a confidentiality agreement, where all sides can only say they have “reached an acceptable resolution.”
Poole’s lawyer Jack Cohoon previously said that the accusation was false and his client’s termination made it difficult for her to find similar work, even after a dedicated career spanning three decades working with the disabled community.
The Insurance Reserve Fund will provide the six-figure payout.
This payout is in addition to the six months of back pay a Judge already ordered Poole.
The commission will have to formally approve these terms in a vote at an upcoming meeting on April 20 at 10 a.m.
Meanwhile, the future of the commission is up in the air.
Legislation to dissolve the board after a recent state audit has passed in the senate and has been introduced in the house where it is currently under consideration of the judiciary committee.
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