Wrongful termination suit filed against HCOG headed to trial

  • Executive Director Todd M. Ford addresses the Hampshire Council of Governments during a meeting on Dec. 15, 2016.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — A trial is scheduled for July 24 in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the Hampshire Council of Governments.

The trial, to take place in U.S. District Court in Springfield, alleges the council wrongfully terminated John P. O’Rourke as HCOG’s electricity director in August 2013. Judge Mark G. Mastroianni will preside.

In May, according to court records, O’Rourke declined a $38,558 settlement offer made by HCOG, saying continuing the saga in court is “necessary to expose the unethical and illegal actions of the Defendants,” to “vindicate O’Rourke” and require testimony of those who “will confirm the pattern of behavior of the Defendants to mistreat and abuse employees.”

He also states that he is actually owed more than $160,000 in lost wages, accrued vacation time, other benefits and damages. O’Rourke originally filed his lawsuit in December 2014.

O’Rourke and Todd Ford, HCOG’s executive director, did not return a request for comment on Sunday. 

In court filings, O’Rourke, who is representing himself, states his due process rights under the council’s personnel policies were violated when he was laid off. He also states the council violated the state’s Open Meeting Law when the executive committee met behind closed doors in 2013 to recommend reorganizing the electricity department.

O’Rourke, according to filings, will argue the “reorganization of the Electricity Department is a sham and was a pretext to the termination of the Plaintiff.” He will also take issue that he was not present at the meeting in which the executive committee recommended reorganization of his department.

The HCOG, according to filings, will argue O’Rourke himself was not fired, but his position was eliminated “as part of a reorganization of the Electricity Department.”

HCOG will also argue O’Rourke was not a contracted employee as he claims, but an employee “at will” and “was provided all due process due to him.”

HCOG is being represented by Boston-based law firm KP Law, P.C. The firm also has an office in Northampton.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.