Court Cases I WCTV Eyewitness News: Tallahassee, Thomasville, Valdosta

Verdict In For Monticello Mayor Vs. Tax Collector Trial


UPDATED
By Julie Montanaro
September 6, 2013

A federal jury today reached a verdict in a case that pitted Monticello's mayor against her boss.

The jury sided with Jefferson County Tax Collector Lois Hunter.

Mayor Idella Scott worked as a deputy clerk in her office and claimed she was unfairly fired for supporting Hunter's opponent in the 2012 election.

Hunter countered Scott was insubordinate and made frequent mistakes.

The jury deliberated more than six hours over two days before reaching a verdict this afternoon

"It was a burden," Hunter said with a sigh afterward. "I've been going through this for nine months and it's like it was getting the best of me. I'm just glad it's over, where I can go on and do my business - what I was hired to do as the Jefferson County tax collector."

Scott's attorney pointed to the jury questions. He says the jury agreed that Scott's support for Hunter's campaign rival was a motivating factor in her firing, but found Hunter would have fired her for other reasons anyway.

Scott proved her point, attorney Sid Matthew said, and contends Hunter has nothing to be proud of with this verdict.


UPDATED
By Julie Montanaro
September 5, 2013

A jury is now deliberating in a federal trial that pit Monticello's Mayor against the county tax collector.

Mayor Idella Scott is suing Tax Collector Lois Hunter claiming she was unfairly fired from her job as a deputy clerk.

Scott contends she was fired because she suported Hunter's opponent in the 2012 race for Jefferson County tax collector.

Hunter's attorneys argued in court that Scott's repeated mistakes and insubordination are to blame.

The federal trial started Tuesday. The jury started deliberating this afternoon.

They've gone home for the night and will resume deliberations in the morning.

We'll keep you posted on a verdict.


UPDATED
By Julie Montanaro
September 3, 2013

The Jefferson County tax collector and Monticello Mayor are facing off in federal court.

Mayor Idella Scott is suing Tax Collector Lois Hunter to get her job back.

Scott was fired in January. She claims Hunter fired her for supporting her opponent in the election.

Hunter's lawyer contends Scott made more mistakes than any other clerk in the office, repeatedly conducted city business on county time and was insubordinate and rude.

The civil trial got underway in Tallahassee's federal court this morning.

Ten jurors will decide if Scott was unfairly denied her political patronage rights or if Hunter fired her for other reasons.


UPDATED
by Julie Montanaro
January 31, 2013

The mayor of Monticello was officially fired from her job at the Jefferson County Tax Collector's office today.

Idella Scott went to federal court yesterday to try to stop it, but the judge refused.

Scott has filed a lawsuit against tax collector Lois Hunter, claiming she was fired for supporting Hunter's political opponent in the last election.

Hunter denies that and says she fired Scott for being short more than 600 dollars on a days' tax receipts.

The judge refused to issue an injunction and said the case will have to be resolved at trial later this year.

Scott is seeking reinstatement, back pay and damages.


UPDATED
by Julie Montanaro
January 30, 2013

The mayor of Monticello was in federal court today asking a judge to stop the Jefferson County Tax Collector from firing her.

Idella Scott is set to be terminated from her job as a deputy clerk tomorrow.

Scott filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was fired because the tax collector believed she was supporting a rival candidate in the most recent election ... and then concocted a phony story about missing money to cover it up.

Scott testified before District Judge Robert Hinkle this afternoon in hopes of getting an injunction to halt her termination.

"She said that if I find out you're campaigning for him then that's it, you're fired, automatic termination," Scott claimed in a previous interview.

Tax collector Lois Hunter waved to our cameras as she walked in to federal court. Her attorneys said Scott told fellow employees her new year's resolution was to do a better job of balancing her daily tax ledgers.

After hours of testimony, the judge denied Scott's request for an injunction and said she'd have to prove her case at trial.


UPDATED
by Julie Montanaro
January 30, 2013

Monticello mayor Idella Scott asked a federal judge this afternoon to issue an injunction to halt her firing by the Jefferson County Tax Collector.

Her termination is effective tomorrow.

Both Scott and tax collector Lois Hunter were in Tallahassee's federal court this afternoon as Judge Robert Hinkle listened to witnesses.

At last word, that hearing was still underway. We'll let you know when the judge makes a decision.


January 17, 2013 by Julie Montanaro

The Monticello mayor is now suing the Jefferson County tax collector in federal court.

She claims the tax collector fired her for supporting a political opponent in the last election and concocted a story of missing money to cover it up.

It's the talk of Monticello. The small town's mayor was just fired from her job as a deputy clerk in the tax collector's office.

Idella Scott was fired January 11th, one day after Lois Hunter was sworn in for a fourth term. The termination will be effective January 31st. Scott is on paid leave until then.

"She was very upset," Scott said. "On more than one occasion she made the comment that if I find out you're campaigning for the opponent, that's it, you're going to be fired, but I was not campaigning for him nor did he ask me to campaign for him."

Scott has filed a federal lawsuit - claiming Hunter has violated her rights to political free speech and association. She is also asking for an emergency injunction to hold on to her job until the case can be heard in federal court.

"Public employees have a right to political free speech and they can campaign for anybody that they want to campaign for and their boss cannot retaliate against them by terminating them," said Scott's attorney Sid Matthew.

Scott says to muddy the water, Hunter essentially accused her of stealing $612.47.

Scott says on January 9th, Hunter called her into the office and told her the day's collections "were short." Scott says she has another employee double check her reports, but she says when Hunter insisted, she wound up paying the $612.47 with her own money. She claims Hunter called her in the next day, returned her money and said the following day's collections were "over" by the exact same amount.

"My character's on trial here, you know?" Scott said, "and it's very painful and I'm going to fight. I mean, because, it's not right. I did not take any money. I've done nothing but my job since I've been there these 12 years."

We went to speak with tax collector Lois Hunter at her office today. She says she and her attorney will have plenty to say soon. She says she must bury her father this weekend and will turn her attention to the lawsuit after that.


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