A Clinton County District Court judge has ruled the Clinton Humane Society did not commit a breach of contract when it terminated its former administrator last year, with the judge ruling that she created a tense environment for workers and acted inappropriately and unprofessionally when dealing with board members and employees.

Jean Regenwether, who was in her third tenure as administrator of the facility, was terminated from that position in July 2010. The termination letter sent by the humane society’s board to Regenwether indicated, in general terms, the reason for termination which the board considered a breach of her contract and which constituted “reasonable cause” to terminate the employment relationship, the ruling states.

On Sept. 27, Regenwether filed a lawsuit in Clinton County District Court alleging breach of her employment contract by the humane society, which provided employment for a period of four years. The humane society denied the breach of contract and the case ultimately was set for an Aug. 1 bench trial.

The recently released ruling, made by Judge Mark Smith, states the court “finds that the facts indicate just cause for the termination of Jean Regenwether as administrator for Clinton Humane Society” and that while the board could have invoked progressive discipline after some board meeting incidents, the court viewed that as “inconsequential to the ultimate reason for the termination of her contract.

“The primary reason as stated by the witnesses for the defendant, was that Jean Regenwether, as administrator, created a tense atmosphere at the facility during her tenure which resulted in a stressful situation for the society’s employees. The investigation conducted by certain board members revealed this unacceptable situation and viewed her continued employment as possibly resulting in key employees leaving the shelter,” the ruling states.

Smith wrote in his ruling that the testimony of employees “indicated that the atmosphere at the shelter was so tense that the employees felt they were walking on eggshells during the time they were under the supervision of Regenwether. This coupled with the inappropriate behavior of Regenwether at board meetings, which included storming out and cleaning her office, in the court’s view justifies termination of her employment for cause.”

More details about this case will be featured in Thursday’s Clinton Herald.

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