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Former Geauga County Health District worker sues District, Commissioner, Board members, and outside counsel for retaliation

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Complaint alleges Health Commissioner Robert Weisdack and others retaliated against fiscal coordinator Rebecca Buddenberg for reporting on unethical conduct and opposing discrimination

Former Geauga County Health District worker sues District, Commissioner, Board members, and outside counsel for retaliation

Rebecca Buddenberg

CLEVELAND, OHIO – Yesterday, Rebecca Buddenberg, former fiscal coordinator for the Geauga County Health District, filed a First Amendment- and employment-retaliation lawsuit [UPDATED June 18, 2018] against the District, Health Commissioner Robert Weisdack, Board members Timothy Goergen, David Gragg, Catherine Whitwright, and Christina Livers, and one of the District’s outside counsel, James Budzik of Mansour Gavin LPA.

Buddenberg’s complaint alleges that

  • Health Commissioner Weisdack began retaliating against her after she spoke out against various unethical and unlawful practices, including Weisdack’s unethical conduct in awarding himself a no-bid contract under an Ohio EPA grant for tire removal without the required prior approval by the prosecutor’s office
  • Weisdack also retaliated against her after she brought to the Board’s attention Weisdack's unlawful pay practices—paying a male more than a female in an identical position.
  • Weisdack began retaliating against Buddenberg immediately, shutting down communication with her, disparaging her to co-workers, and changing her scheduled hours (which required her to quit school and limited her ability to assist with her grandson who was suffering from cancer).
  • when Buddenberg opposed this retaliation by complaining to Board members and filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Weisdack escalated the retaliation with Budzik’s and the Board’s help.
  • Weisdack and Budzik trumped up a series of petty, false, and baseless accusations against Buddenberg and attempted to coerce her into withdrawing her discrimination charges.
  • when she refused, the Board members, at Weisdack’s behest, demoted her, cut her pay by nearly half, and suspended her for three days.
  • Weisdack stripped Buddenberg of access to essential electronic files, reassigned her duties to other employees, eliminated her position, and would have required her to work post-demotion in a position reporting to his administrative assistant who had been openly hostile to Buddenberg since she first spoke out against Weisdack’s unlawful and unethical behavior.
  • Ms. Buddenberg had no choice but to resign under the circumstances, resulting in her constructive discharge.

Sandhya Gupta, one of Buddenberg’s attorneys, said, “Rebecca Buddenberg had the courage to speak truth to power—exposing potential ethical violations and discrimination in her workplace. But rather than take these concerns seriously and remedy them, the Geauga County Health District drove this dedicated public servant to resign under duress. Public employers cannot retaliate against employees who speak up about government misconduct.”

The suit, captioned Buddenberg v. Geauga County Health District, et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The complaint, found here [UPDATED June 18, 2018], alleges violations of state and federal anti-discrimination laws, retaliation under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, retaliating against a public servant for discharging her duties, intimidation by using false writings, interfering with civil rights, aiding and abetting discrimination, and civil conspiracy.

Subodh Chandra, Sandhya Gupta, and Donald Screen of the Chandra Law Firm, LLC,, represent Buddenberg.

Related Practice Areas
Employment RetaliationFirst Amendment

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