Norwalk Reflector: Lawsuit against Corbin goes in 'fired' deputy's favor
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Lawsuit against Corbin goes in 'fired' deputy's favor

Cary Ashby • Jan 12, 2019 at 6:00 PM

Terry Shean said she got what she wanted from her lawsuit against Huron County Sheriff Todd Corbin — transparency in the proceedings and people knowing “I was fired.” 

“There are two things I wanted: I refused to resign — and that was asked of me — and that I wanted no hush orders; I wanted everything open book and Judge (Jack) Zouhary did grant that,” she said.

Shean, in the spring of 2017, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio about her wrongful termination from the sheriff’s office. The main focus was discrimination based on disability. Corbin requested her resignation, based on her medical issues keeping her from performing road patrol duties — something that court documents say Shean hadn’t done in 30 years.

The lawsuit has been resolved in Shean’s favor. She received a financial settlement, which she declined to disclose.

“It was a reasonable six-figure number,” said Shean, who was focused on the open-book process of the lawsuit “so it could be shared with others.”

“The money was secondary,” she added. “Since there was a settlement made, it did not go to trial. There is no guilty person, so to speak, but these things happen every day and I don’t know if it would be considered waving a flag for those kind of people who are disabled, but it certainly would be something that can be shared by them because of the open book. That’s why that was so important because there are a lot of people who go through similar circumstances.”

Shean, a 33-year veteran with the sheriff’s office, worked for four sheriffs and the very beginning of Corbin’s administration. Over the years, she worked as a dispatcher, deputy assigned to road patrol, training officer, assistant jail administrator, dispatcher supervisor and a lieutenant with the oversight responsibility of road patrol. Shean also handled inmate transportation to court.

“During that period, her record of employment was exceptional,” her attorney, Paul Belazis, wrote in the lawsuit.

While performing administrative work, Shean notified the press about various awards and safe-driving initiatives. Dick Sutherland promoted her to lieutenant during his administration.

“I did the carry-conceal (weapons) program for a while. For a while, I was still running the corrections academies for the eight different agencies,” Shean said, referring to continued professional training. “We did the first training at Fisher-Titus hospital and of course we included all the area police agencies at that time. We had a really, really good turnout for that.”

As part of the lawsuit resolution, the judge ruled that Corbin fired Shean, she said, and didn’t just force her to resign.

“I felt justified because the two things I wanted, the judge granted. The first thing was I did not resign at the request of the defendant. I refused to do that and the judge upheld that and that it was open book — everything that happens,” Shean said.

Corbin couldn’t be reached for comment this week. When the lawsuit was filed, the sheriff referred questions to attorney Jeff Stankunas, who said Shean “was not let go,” but instead “was subject to a disability separation,” which “is unique to government employees.”

 

Timeline 

Corbin defeated incumbent Dane Howard in the November 2016 election.

One of the stipulations in the lawsuit was that Shean “supported” Howard in his bid for re-election. Shean wrote an editorial that was published in the Reflector “expressing her support for Sheriff Howard” and “signed the endorsement Lt. Shean of the Huron County Sheriff’s Office,” according to court documents.

“Immediately following his election, defendant Corbin expressed a strong desire to terminate (her) employment and the employment of two other sheriff’s deputies who had supported Sheriff Howard,” according to the lawsuit.

Before Corbin took office, Shean said she had a feeling there would be changes and “there would be some issues” regarding her job responsibilities.

“I didn’t know exactly what, when or where, but I knew things were going to be different. That has held the course with every sheriff I’ve worked under,” added Shean, who was hired by John Borgia.

Corbin’s chief deputy approached Shean and told her to prepare to be on road patrol.

“That happened three days after (the) election,” Shean said. “I had a letter from my surgeon who said that was not going to be (possible).

“I was born without a right hip; I never knew that until about maybe 18 or 19 years ago. I went to the Cleveland Clinic and they said eventually (there) was going to be need to be surgery. … There are clues that (there) was going to be a hip there, but it never grew.”

Eventually, Shean said a doctor installed a new hip, “extended my right leg by three-quarters of an inch” and doctors built “a bridge” to join her pelvis and hip to get everything aligned properly. The surgery happened June 13, 2016, during Howard’s administration.

“Todd Corbin had contacted me at home and asked me to resign. I refused. This was after I was escorted off the property,” Shean said. “I was fired.”

 

Pursuing the lawsuit

“The union was not very strong in representing me and they gave me the name of an attorney (who) … already had a conflict. He had already represented the sheriff’s office … but somehow I was put in the hands of the right person,” said Shean, who praised the hard work that Belazis did on her behalf.

It was the original attorney who recommended Belazis.

“He said to me, ‘I happen to know an attorney (who) would do very well with me and he asked me to give a brief synopsis of everything that had transpired, which I did, and that’s how I ended up with Paul Belazis,” Shean said.

Some of the undisputed facts in the lawsuit were that Shean hadn’t been on road patrol in 30 years “and following her June 2016 hip replacement surgery, her doctor advised that she could not be put at risk for physical altercation.” Court documents also say that “given the nature of road patrol, the parties agreed Shean would be unable to perform these duties without accommodation.”

Prior to leaving the sheriff’s office, Shean was placed on administrative leave.

“In one of the depositions, I was asked if my job were offered to me if I would accept it. This was several months, nearly a year, afterwards and (after) everything that had transpired with the discoveries and different hearings and everything else. When they asked me in deposition if I would take my job if it were offered to me and I said ‘no.’ And I didn’t even hesitate because I would be going into a toxic work environment,” she said.

Pursuing the lawsuit was “more than a little bit” scary or intimidating, said Shean, who ultimately wants people facing disability discrimination or wrongful termination to know “there is a way” to handle the situation. She said filing a lawsuit isn’t an easy journey, but it’s one she’s “absolutely” glad she took.

“There are so many people facing situations like this. Sometimes it’s nice to know somebody has already walked that path,” Shean said.

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