LYONS — A dispute that the accuser claimed turned physical has prompted the director of a Wayne County department to file suit against Walworth Town Supervisor Robert “Bob” Plant.
According to paperwork filed in state Supreme Court on Oct. 3 by Karen Ambroz, director of Wayne County Real Property Tax Service, “Robert Plant, in his capacity as Supervisor for the Town of Walworth, harassed, harangued, restrained and otherwise demonstrated improper and violent conduct toward” her.
According to the suit, it is alleged that on Aug. 9, Plant went to the Real Property Tax office at 16 William St. in Lyons to “discuss a town issue” with Ambroz. An altercation allegedly ensued during which Plant is accused of grabbing Ambroz’s wrist and preventing her from leaving the office, the lawsuit paperwork states.
Ambroz is now suing Plant and the town of Walworth for injuries, specifically personal injuries, pain and suffering and emotional distress she allegedly sustained in the incident.
The paperwork does not include a dollar amount sought for compensation, noting that the total amount is “presently unknown but continuing.”
A Walworth resident, Ambroz worked for several years as the town assessor for Walworth before being appointed to her current position about two years ago. Ambroz and her attorney, Anthony Villani, declined comment.
Plant did not return a phone message left with town hall staff or respond to an email asking for comment as of press time Tuesday.
Before seeking to file a lawsuit, Ambroz contacted the county attorney’s office about the matter.
“I wasn’t there,” County Attorney Dan Connors said about the incident. “We did take a look at it — a hard look. We investigated the matter fully.”
The county has a policy that specifically addresses violence in county offices, Connors said. The Workplace Violence Policy was created to “respond to threats and incidents in the workplace.” The policy states: “Threats, threatening behavior, or acts of violence against employees, visitors, guests, or other individuals by anyone on Wayne County property will not be tolerated.”
The alleged incident took place inside a county building between a county employee and a county supervisor, Connors said, and continued outside when Plant followed Ambroz out of the office and onto the street. The problem, he said, was defining whether Plant, as a county supervisor and paid by the county for that part of the job, is in fact a county employee. Based on current policy, said Connors, it was determined he’s not.
The policy offers remedies after a full investigation has been completed and an incident of violence has been confirmed. Those remedies include “suspension and/or termination of any business relationship, reassignment of job duties, suspension or termination of employment, and criminal prosecution as appropriate.”
Connors said as a supervisor — an elected position — the county cannot remove Plant from office or change or reduce his job duties.
Page 2 of 2 - “There was nothing in the policy that directly fit the facts of the case,” Connors said. “We did everything we could do.”
The only other remedy was to seek criminal charges, Connors said. That remedy was explained to Ambroz, and she apparently pursued it, but “it didn’t go anywhere,” he added.
The county is currently reviewing the policy, although there was no indication that this alleged incident is a factor in any proposed revisions.
Plant, a Republican, worked as a blacksmith for 30 years before being elected as supervisor eight years ago. A firm believer in term limits, Plant is not seeking re-election as supervisor in the coming election on Nov. 5, but is running for a town council seat.