EXCLUSIVE: Ex-state worker paid $120,000 in settlement over his firing

tflach@thestate.comAugust 1, 2013 

SC State House


— A former employee of the state agency that polices workplace safety and the conduct of members of 43 professions received $120,000 to settle a dispute over his dismissal.

Mark Kelly, who investigated complaints against nurses, was paid in a deal in which officials at the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation admit no wrongdoing.

Besides the payment, Kelly was given a “neutral reference” for future employment with no mention of his termination, the settlement says.

It concluded a series of challenges Kelly raised to his firing in 2011.

The settlement, made in December, was kept confidential but is available under public records standards, allowing The State newspaper to obtain it through a state Freedom of Information Act request.

State officials provided the settlement without comment.

“For reasons which are apparent, I am only able to say that the matters were resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties,” said Benjamin Mabry, Kelly’s lawyer.

Kelly, 52, now is a consultant. He lives in West Columbia.

His challenges contend his dismissal stemmed from comments about faith and patriotism that agency leaders viewed as contrary to a goal of encouraging diversity. He worked at the agency for 13 years.

The agency’s leader then was Catherine Templeton, who now oversees the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Templeton said when his challenges to dismissal began in fall 2011 that Kelly was fired for intimidation and harassment while on the job, not for his beliefs

In Templeton’s current position, four former DHEC staffers have gone to court to fight her decision to dismiss them for what she says are their missteps this spring in an investigation into a tuberculosis outbreak at a Greenwood County school.

Templeton sent DHEC employees an email Monday praising their efforts in dealing with the outbreak of the respiratory disease affecting more than 100 people, including more than 50 young students.

“I am sorry that the mistakes of a few have made it difficult for all of us,” her email said. “Hang in there.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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