Town, Mayor Move To Dismiss Lawsuit

BERLIN – The town of Berlin and Mayor Tom Cardinale last week filed a motion to dismiss the suit filed against them in December by former Finance Director Ron Bireley, who was fired in January 2005, citing certain fallacies in the original complaint.

Bireley filed the suit in Worcester County Circuit Court on Dec. 26, contending, “he was subjected to a frivolous, unmerited but widely publicized investigation for misconduct and then fired, depriving him of his rights to substantive and procedural due process.” Bireley was fired by Cardinale on Jan. 7, 2005 and the termination was confirmed with a majority vote of the town council three days later.

With the lawsuit, Bireley is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, an award of compensatory damages and an award of attorney fees and costs. As to Cardinale, the only individual named in the suit, Bireley is also seeking an award of punitive damages. From the beginning, Cardinale has contended Bireley’s dismissal was the result of differences in philosophy and conflicting comfort levels with the amount of debt the town was carrying at the time.

The motion to dismiss filed last week by attorney Kevin Karpaski on behalf of the town and Cardinale attempts to point out several fallacies in the civil suit. For example, the motion denies Bireley has a right to any substantive due process claim because he was an “at will” employee at the time of his termination.

“Clearly, the plaintiff had no contractual right or entitlement to continued employment with the town,” the motion reads. “The plaintiff was an at-will employee of the town of Berlin as he served at the pleasure of the mayor and could be terminated by the mayor with the consent of the council.

“As an at-will employee, the plaintiff could be fired for almost any reason, or for no reason at all,” the motion to dismiss reads. “Therefore, defendants did not need cause to fire the plaintiff, rather, they could terminate for no reason at all if they wished.”

A second major component of the lawsuit filed by Bireley against the town and Cardinale deals with alleged defamation of character issues, but the motion for dismissal attempts to invalidate those claims as well.

The motion dismisses the defamation component of the suit because it never mentions a specific example anywhere in the complaint.

“The complaint is completely devoid of any allegations of any illegal defamatory statement made about the plaintiff by any defendant,” the motion reads. “Rather, all it alleges is that the plaintiff was fired and that there was publicity regarding his termination. Because the complaint fails to identify any allegedly defamatory statement made by a defendant, the complaint utterly fails to state a claim for false light invasion of privacy.”