Limestone County employees claim ethics violations against water board, chairman

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. – Two former employees of the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority (LCWSA) filed a lawsuit against Limestone County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough and the seven members of the LCWSA Board of Directors for what they argue is a violation of Alabama ethics law on Wednesday.

Attorneys for Byron Cook and Greg Holland argue that the two were unjustly terminated from their positions with LCWSA for failing to give special consideration to Yarbrough’s son, a LCWSA employee, as well as another employee who is the son of one of Yarbrough’s friends. Cook had been serving as the general manager of LCWSA, while Holland was working as the assistant general manager.

The complaint states the issue started the night Yarbrough secured the Republican Party nomination for Limestone County Commission Chairman on June 4, 2014. The lawsuit says:

At an election night campaign event, Plaintiff Byron Cook, then General Manager of the LCWSA, was informed by Gina Yarbrough, wife of Defendant Mark Yarbrough, that her son, Ben Yarbrough, needed a job. Several days later, Defendant Mark Yarbrough came to the LCWSA and dropped off a copy of his son’s resume with Plaintiff Greg Holland. During this encounter, Plaintiff Greg Holland expressed his concern over the potential conflict created by hiring the family member of a County Commissioner at the LCWSA. Upon information and belief, Plaintiff Greg Holland’s concerns angered Defendant Mark Yarbrough, who immediately departed the premises.

According to the suit, Cook claims his job was then threatened and a couple months later, Ben Yarbrough was hired, “despite a criminal background check that would have likely prevented the hire of a similar applicant.”

In the months to follow, the plaintiffs say a similar pattern of harassment and intimidation developed to help Ben Yarbrough receive promotions and positive evaluations at work.

After both their jobs were threatened multiple times, court documents state that Cook and Holland filed complaints on September 21, 2016 with the Alabama Ethics Commission regarding Yarbrough’s behavior. The lawsuit claims as a result of those complaints, “plaintiffs are protected from retaliatory discharge or discrimination.

Court documents show that Cook and Holland were fired last week.

Limestone County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough was unavailable for comment.

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