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Rocky counterpunches, while rescue mission alleges misappropriation of funds

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Former Rescue Mission Director Rocky Lyons has sued the Butte Rescue Mission for wrongful discharge. The mission, in turn, has accused Lyons of using mission funds for personal purposes.

Rocky Lyons speaks to the Silver Bow Kiwanis Club in 2018

Story and photo by Jim Larson

ButteNews.net
Aug 18, 2020

Rocky Lyons has filed a lawsuit against  the Butte Rescue Mission for wrongful discharge. Lyons was director of the Butte Rescue Mission until she was terminated on Jan 23 of this year.


Her lawsuit was filed in April.


In a counterclaim, the rescue mission argued that Lyons used mission funds for personal purposes without explanation. In court documents, the rescue mission asserted that Lyons, as executive director, “misappropriated BRM [Butte Rescue Mission] funds and converted them for her personal benefit and/or the benefit of members of her family.”


In her answer to the counterclaim, Lyons denied the mission’s assertion that she misappropriated funds.


The mission argued that it had asked Lyons to “provide an explanation of how such expenditures were related to BRM or to reimburse BRM.”


Lyons refused to explain how the alleged personal expenditure of mission funds were related to the mission, the counterclaim said. “As the result of conversion of BRM funds for her personal benefit or the benefit of her family, BRM has been damaged in an amount to be proven at trial,” court documents said.


Lyons denied this assertion by the rescue mission as well in her answer to the counterclaim.


In addition to wrongful discharge, Lyon’s lawsuit alleged that her civil rights had been violated. It argued that she was not terminated for “good cause.” The action called her termination “arbitrary and capricious.”


It noted that she was not on probation at the time she was let go and that “Ms. Lyons served with distinction for more than five years, spearheading numerous efforts, including the opening of a new homeless shelter in Butte in 2019.”


The lawsuit added that no disciplinary actions had been initiated against the director prior to her firing, and her performance had not been called into question up until that point. The lawsuit added that the mission had not followed its own procedures 


The action also alleged that the mission improperly accessed Lyons private email and changed the email’s password.


In addition, the lawsuit against the rescue mission alleges that Lyons is owed back vacation pay with penalty added.


The mission answered that the complaint didn’t state “sufficient facts” to claim relief and argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed. In it’s response, the mission denied that it made unauthorized access to Lyon’s private email accounts, and the response said that the mission paid Lyons her accrued vacation pay. The mission argued that exceptions could be made to its discharge procedures if the situation warranted.


In its counterclaim, the rescue mission also noted that Lyons had purchased an iPad and accessories at a cost of $939. The mission said that it had asked for the pad back, but Lyons had not returned it. The mission asked for the return of the pad or the money, the court document said.


In her answer to the mission’s counterclaims, Lyons confirmed the purchase of the iPad, but noted that it was not for her use only. She also noted that she had been paid for 80 hours at the end of her time with the mission. Besides those two exceptions, Lyons denied all of the allegations made in the mission’s counterclaim.


The mission also said in the counterclaim that Lyons had refused to turn over email accounts that belonged to the organization, interfering with its ability to conduct business. 


The counterclaim also argued that Lyons had made negative remarks to donors and other third parties that interfered with the mission’s business relations. As a result, the organization had suffered damages “in an amount to be proven at trial.”


The Butte Rescue Mission asks for damages “resulting from the plaintiff’s misappropriation of funds,” the plaintiff’s “conversion” of mission property, the plaintiff’s interference with mission business, for alleged overpayment to the plaintiff, and attorney’s fees and court costs, a court document said.


Rocky Lyons asks for lost wages for four years beginning with her termination. She also asks for economic damages associated with her termination as well as special damages. She also asks for unpaid vacation time accrued and a “statutory penalty of 110 percent of unpaid wages.” She also asks for attorney’s fees, court costs, damages for invasion of privacy, and punitive damages.


A jury trial has been set for Sept 13, 2021.


Poore, Roth and Robinson represent the rescue mission. Vicevich Law represents Lyons.


 


 

 

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