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April 25, 2014

Ex-county clerk gets $113G to settle suit

Fired prothonotary worker rejects offer of old job back

SUNBURY — A prothonotary’s office employee fired while under suspicion for missing funds has reached a settlement worth $113,000 with Northumberland County in a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Dana Anne Klokis, who worked 13 years as a court cost and collection clerk, said Thursday she is vindicated by the settlement, but still feels bitter about the nature of her departure and how she was treated by certain individuals with whom she worked.

At the time of her January 2009 firing, she was a full-time employee, putting in about 73 hours bimonthly at $12.62 an hour.

“The way it happened was unreal,” she said Thursday afternoon, recalling that Jan. 14 when her supervisor, then-Prothonotary Kathleen Strausser, called her to task.

“Kathy looked at me and said, ‘We have a problem. What do you know about some money that is missing?’” Klokis recalled.

She was told that a large amount of money was missing and was given a date when those funds disappeared.

“I laughed,” Klokis said. “Kathy told me to get that smirk off my face.”

Klokis told Strausser that she had been on vacation the day the money went missing.

Klokis remains convinced that she was “set up” and that the firing was in large part politically motivated.

“I was the only Democrat, and it was a Republican office,” she said. “I just had to laugh at them believing I had anything to do with the missing money. I mean it was ridiculous, I thought.

“When I was fired, Kathy didn’t have the guts to tell me to my face,” Klokis said. “She called me and said that my services were no longer needed. That hurt for a long time, how she told me. But in the days that followed, I felt a huge burden off my shoulders, given how dysfunctional that office was. And it had been like that for a long time.”

Five years of lawsuits followed, until this month, when a settlement was reached, she said.

“I’m glad she won the settlement and justice has prevailed,” Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi said Thursday night. “Back when the firing happened, I thought it was wrong and I told Kathy it was wrong.”

Clausi said he advised Strausser that she had fired Klokis without cause.

“She gave no evidence of wrongdoing by Dana Klokis in the office,” Clausi said.

Prothonotary Justin Dunkelberger, meanwhile, was surprised to see the $113,000 being charged to his budget, considering that the actual decision to settle was in November 2013, before he took office.

“This is a legacy issue,” he said Thursday night. “It should be applied to last year’s budget, if we can. If not, I hope they put it into a separate line item, and it doesn’t affect my budget.”

Meanwhile, Klokis said she now feels content “working a job that I love” in automotive retail. Dunkelberger offered her a job when he took office this year, Klokis said, but she declined.

After taxes, Klokis will receive $73,000 of the settlement amount.

 

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