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Fired Elkhart city attorney files federal suit against mayor

September 7, 2016

A female Elkhart city attorney who claims the newly elected mayor fired her because he “wanted my own guy” has filed a federal lawsuit alleging her First Amendment rights were violated. She also claims age discrimination and violation of the Equal Pay Act.

Margaret Marnocha, 62, filed suit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, saying Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese told her after his election in November 2015 that he wasn't going to retain her, making her last day as city attorney Dec. 31, 2015. Marnocha had been one of two city attorneys, holding the titles of utility staff attorney, utility attorney and deputy city attorney. Her suit claims she served for five years and she “had no unfavorable documents in her personnel file and had never been subject to discipline.”

The suit claims her First Amendment rights were violated because she supported the Democratic candidate for mayor, incumbent Dick Moore, who was defeated by Republican Neese. “Plaintiff Marnocha was terminated on the grounds that she was a Democrat, and Republican Mayor Tim Neese replaced her with a Republican,” the suit claims. Marnocha argues that her job was not a policymaking position that would be exempt from political considerations.

Marnocha also claims Neese hired a male attorney to replace her and paid him more. Her suit seeks actual and punitive damages, an award for intentional infliction of emotional distress, attorney fees and costs. Marnocha is represented by South Bend attorney Andrew B. Jones.

A spokeswoman for Neese did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the suit.

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