Lawsuit alleges Wayne County clerk wrongfully fired whistle blower

The Wayne County clerk wrongfully fired an employee who had reported suspicions that the clerk was improperly paying her husband with taxpayer funds, a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges.

In one instance, employee Heather Piercy saw that on the day Clerk Melissa Turpin bought a pickup for $3,000, she issued a $3,000 check from the office to her husband. Piercy, "alarmed that she may be witnessing possible criminal activity," talked about it with a deputy sheriff and others, the lawsuit said.

Turpin fired her soon after, according to the suit, saying Piercy had spoken to people "concerning office business."

Piercy had also cooperated with state Auditor Crit Luallen's office in a review that concluded there was $87,000 missing from Turpin's office, according to the suit. Luallen referred the findings to Attorney General Jack Conway's office for further investigation.

Turpin said at the time that she didn't think anyone in the office had stolen money.

The lawsuit, prepared by Somerset attorney Scott T. Foster, lists Turpin and the Wayne County fiscal court and its members as defendants. It seeks unspecified damages and reinstatement for Piercy.

It alleges that Turpin violated Piercy's right to free speech, retaliated against her and broke a state law that protects whistle blowers.

Turpin, who became clerk in January 2007, denied the allegations. They're not true," she said. Turpin said she had never made any improper payments to her husband.

Piercy's lawsuit said she saw several "disturbing" checks written to Turpin's husband, Glenn, for "cleaning" or "labor."