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Smithsburg EMS sued

October 30, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - A former Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services paramedic is suing his former employer and a former assistant chief for defamation, claiming that he didn't get a job at the FBI due to false comments made by the former assistant chief during a background check interview.

Robert Lowery Jr. is suing Smithsburg EMS and former Assistant Chief Robert Myerly for $150,000 in compensatory damages. He also is suing for punitive damages, attorneys' fees and is requesting that the department and Myerly be ordered "to notify the FBI that the previous statements provided regarding (Lowery's) work history with the department were untrue," according to the suit filed in Washington County Circuit Court on Oct. 15.

Joyce Williams, president of Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services' board of directors, said that Lowery was a paramedic.

Lowery, through his attorney, Michael P. Coyle, states in the suit that Myerly falsely stated to the FBI investigator that Lowery "was in charge of ensuring that the department's 'drug box' was maintained and kept up to date, but that he failed to do so; that Robert Lowery was responsible for the Department's billing and ordering medical supplies, but that after he left, the department was almost a year behind in paying its bills; and that Robert Lowery had been terminated."

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Coyle said Friday that Lowery was not responsible for the drug box or for paying the bills. He said it was Lowery's decision to leave the department. He said Friday that he would check with Lowery before commenting further on the case, but didn't called back.

Williams said Myerly no longer is an employee at the department. She said he left to take a job outside the county in late summer.

Myerly could not be reached for comment.

Myerly's statements were "not made in good faith," the suit alleges. "The statements were made with actual malice and/or Myerly intentionally or recklessly disclosed the false information since, among other things, Myerly knew the statements were false or were most certainly false, had obvious reasons to believe the statements were not accurate or did not adequately investigate whether the statements were false," according to the suit.

Williams said she could not comment on the lawsuit because she does not have enough information on it.

According to the suit, which also lists Lowery's wife, Amanda Lowery, as a plaintiff, Lowery was offered a job at the FBI around July 17, 2003, which was conditional on a background check. In early November 2003, the FBI contacted Smithsburg EMS, since Lowery had listed the department as a former employer, and spoke with Myerly, who was, at the time, the department's assistant chief, according to the suit.

Lowery was notified on Nov. 21, 2003, that he did not get a job at the FBI "specifically because of information it received from the department," according to the suit.

Lowery received investigative documents related to his background check in May 2004 from the FBI through a Freedom of Information Act request, according to the suit.

"These documents made it clear that the FBI's decision to rescind its offer of employment was based on false and defamatory statements made by Myerly," the suit alleges.

As a result of the statements and their effect, Amanda Lowery "was denied the society, affection, assistance and conjugal fellowship of her husband," according to the suit.

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