Court Dismisses Defamation Lawsuit Against Former Mills’ Officials
A judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by a former employee of the Town of Mills who sued its former mayor and clerk/treasurer -- both of whom recently were found guilty of various crimes related to their jobs -- and the town itself, according to Natrona County District Court records.
"The court finds that, based on Plaintiff's multiple, express allegations in the complaint that, at all relevant times, Defendants (Marrolyce) Wilson and (Lisa) Whetstone were acting within the course and scope of their employment," Judge Daniel Forgey wrote in his order dismissing the lawsuit.
According to court records, former information technology director Eric Salveggio worked for the town from December 2014 to March 2015 when he left for another job.
However, his new employer did a background check and found an issue that could have resulted in his termination.
Mayor Wilson and Clerk/Treasurer Whetstone told the employer that Salveggio, while working for the town, had committed "'embezzlement, fraud, and dealing with a person know[n] to be dealing in child pornography,'" according to Forgey's description of the cse.
Salveggio claimed all the accusations were proven false, but Wilson's and Whetstone's comments damaged his reputation.
In September, he sued Wilson, Whetstone and the Town of Mills for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Salveggio represented himself and did not have an attorney.
Wilson, Whetstone and the town, through their attorney Rick Koehmstedt, responded they were acting within the scope of their employee duties according to the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act. Public officials are immune from liability with certain exceptions.
In his order dated March 28, Forgey cited a ruling by the Wyoming Supreme Court that the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act stating, "'It is uncontroverted that, under the WGCA, immunity is the rule, and liability the exception."
He wrote Salveggio's arguments were somewhat difficult to understand. Salveggio also conceded his claims do not "'meet the letter of the law as per the' WGCA," Forgey added.
Salveggio contended the immunity issue could be avoided if Wilson and Whetstone individually defamed him, Forgey wrote.
But that didn't happen because they were government employees and did not act outside the the cope of their duties of employment.
Likewise, Forgey dismissed Salveggio's claim against the Town of Mills, because it, too, has immunity granted by the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act.
While Salveggio's lawsuit was working through the legal system, Wilson and Whetstone were under scrutiny.
Last week, Wilson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of conflict of interest while she was mayor. Natrona County Circuit Court Judge Michael Patchen fined her $5,000 for her for a sale of town-owned property she acquired through a series of deals with her daughter.
And Whetstone pleaded guilty in March to a felony count of using a public credit card for personal purposes. The plea agreement does not include any imprisonment, but Whetstone would be placed on probation for up to five years, and fined up to $5,000.
The agreement also will include restitution, but the amount remains disputed.
The cases started in January 2015 with an audit, and later a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation probe, of irregularities of the town's books. Investigators found more than $64,000 in cash had been stolen from the town under Whetstone's watch.