Ex-Wyoming County aging director, insurer settle lawsuit
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – An insurer has agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by former Wyoming County Council on Aging director Bob Graham over its refusal to provide a defense for Graham after he was sued by the state.
Graham said he and National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh agreed to the settlement on Friday. The lawsuit sought damages for aggravation and inconvenience.
The settlement, if approved by the U.S. District Court in Bluefield, would end a long legal battle, both civil and criminal, over Graham’s tenure as the director of the aging council and another nonprofit, All Care Home and Community Services.
“I’m happy that this is over,” Graham said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
An attorney for National Fire did not immediately return a telephone message Tuesday.
The state sued Graham, the aging council and All Care in 2004, alleging they breached public trust in their use of public funds. The lawsuit was dismissed as moot in 2009 after the organizations’ boards removed Graham as director.
National Fire refused to provide a defense for Graham in the state’s lawsuit, and he sued the insurer in 2010. U.S. District Judge David Faber ruled in favor of National Fire but the Virginia-based U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling in 2012 and sent the case back. A year later, Graham recovered about $278,000 in legal fees from National Fire. However, Faber ruled that Graham could not recover damages for aggravation and inconvenience. A three-judge panel of the appeals court overturned that ruling in February.
Graham had been convicted in 2006 on one federal count of cashing out $31,129 in sick leave without the approval of the aging council’s board of directors. The appeals court overturned the conviction in 2008, ruling there was insufficient evidence that Graham knowingly stole from his employer.
“That I was able to fight the feds and the state and prevail in the end, maybe it will make the feds and the state more cautious,” Graham said, “but also give people the idea that they can win if they have perseverance and the ability to take the barrage that comes with all of the power that comes with the state and federal government, and the media.”
“What you really had was [a] lynch mob,” he said. “The facts didn’t get in the way of a perfectly good lynch mob.”
On Tuesday, Faber removed Graham’s lawsuit from the court’s active docket. Faber said in his order that the parties can submit an agreed order of dismissal within 30 days. If they do not, the lawsuit will be dismissed without prejudice, meaning the matter could be litigated in a subsequent action.