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Lawsuit against animal shelter thrown out

A half-million dollar lawsuit filed by a former Jackson County animal control officer claiming wrongful discharge, age discrimination and false arrest has been tossed out of court.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Arnold ruled late that Andy Lane's case against the county shelter and its former director, Colleen Macuk, was without merit.

Arnold dismissed the case last month, stating, "Lane has not submitted evidence to support his theory of retaliation."

Lane had submitted "self-serving testimony of his own satisfactory job performance, such statements are not enough," Arnold wrote, adding the only other evidence Lane submitted was a letter written five years before Lane was terminated.

Lane had worked for Jackson County Animal Care and Control for more than two decades before he was fired on Sept. 11, 2009, after being arrested for allegedly using his position to steal livestock.

Lane said he was merely removing the animals to protect them and the charges were later dropped. But the termination stuck. Lane was seeking $381,000 in back and future wages, plus $100,000 for wrongful discharge, from the county.

Lane said Friday that he was disappointed in the court's decision.

"I think that it's totally unfair," Lane said. "I asked for a jury trial, and the judge dismissed the case before we got there."

Lane was also suing the recently retired Macuk for $100,000, saying his former boss has caused him extreme emotional distress.

Macuk's termination letter to Lane says he failed to keep proper logs, had unexcused absences, failed to disclose that he owned a dog-grooming business and continued to disobey policies. Lane was also "disrespectful and intimidating" in his interactions with Macuk, she wrote.

"You also took steps towards me and spoke to me in a raised tone of voice of voice," Macuk wrote.

Lane also claimed he'd had a relationship with Macuk and filed a sexual harassment claim against her in 2007. Court records show Lane's harassment claim was ultimately disallowed on Oct. 5, 2007, because there was "not conclusive evidence" of Lane's allegations.

Macuk did not return calls for comment Friday.

Lane said he stands by his allegations. But he said he can't afford to appeal the court's decision.

"I don't have that kind of money," Lane said, adding he remains unemployed.

County Administrator Danny Jordan said he was pleased with the court's decision.

"As evidenced by the court's ruling, Mr. Lane's claims weren't substantiated," he said.

Lane's unfounded allegations had caused Macuk to take an unfair beating in the media, Jordan said.

"That unfairness is evidenced by the court's ruling," he said. "On a personal note, I hope that Ms. Macuk can enjoy her retirement."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.