Front Page Nation-World Arkansas-Local Editorial-Voices Sports Business Features-Style Classified Ads Acrobat® PDFs Business Matters Business & Tech Weekend Section Movies & Dining Previous Features Photo Gallery Useful Links Info & E-mail Archives TV Listings Weather RETURN to Northwest Arkansas Section / Wednesday, December 6, 2000 Postmaster's slander lawsuit dismissedCHRIS BRANAM ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE FAYETTEVILLE -- The Fayetteville postmaster's defamation lawsuit against the local branch of the American Postal Workers Union was dismissed by Washington County Circuit Judge Kim Smith on Monday, who said state court doesn't have jurisdiction for a dispute between postal employees. Linda J. Patrick claims that U.S. Postal Service employees and their unions have libeled and slandered her through the distribution of a letter that describes a "murderous atmosphere" in the workplace. Patrick, who had a similar case dismissed in federal court in March, brought the case to circuit court as a private individual, not as the postmaster, said her attorney, Terry Funk of Tulsa. The judge disagreed with Patrick, saying the suit was filed because of events surrounding her position as postmaster. Arkansas state courts have never had a case involving disputes between federal employees, Smith said. "These types of cases are pre-empted by federal law," Smith said. Also named in the suit are the local and national associations of the American Postal Workers Union and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. A separate dismissal hearing date will be set for the other defendants, Smith ruled. Individuals named in the suit are Loren Adams, Tom Trailer, Jeff Barnes, Jim Warford, Dale Buchanan, Mark Lucas and Fred Cusanelli. Smith's ruling paves the way for end of the suit against the suit's other defendants, Fayetteville attorney Charles Kester said. "I would be shocked if there was a different outcome," in the other cases, said Kester, who represents the local branch of the Postal Workers Union. Patrick, who did not attend the hearing, referred questions about the case to her attorney. Patrick filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Jan. 12, 1999, alleging slander and libel by postal workers and the unions. She dropped it three months later. On Oct. 13, 1999, Patrick sued the U.S. Postal Service for sex discrimination, saying the Postal Service breached her contract by not investigating her claims of defamation. U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren dismissed the case on March 8, saying Patrick had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies on the sex discrimination claim and that his court had no jurisdiction on Patrick's charge that the Postal Service breached her contract by not investigating her claims. Patrick is appealing Hendren's ruling in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Patrick was named Fayetteville's postmaster in 1996. She was transferred to Rogers as postmaster in 1999, then returned to the Fayetteville Post Office this year. On Sept. 12, Patrick brought her claims to state court, filing a defamation suit against the postal workers and their unions. Her reputation was damaged in the community and her chances at career advancement in the postal service were hindered, she said. Patrick claims employees linked her management style to the January suicide of a postal employee. Barnes, Warford, Buchanan and Lucas, as representatives of their unions, in July 1998 signed and sent a letter to Charles K. Kermnan, vice president of the Postal Service's southwest area. The letter, which claims that the poor relationship between labor and management at the Fayetteville Post Office resembles that of post offices where violence has occurred, asks for an investigation into Patrick's "regime." Patrick's lawsuit claims her career suffered because of the letter, which was also mailed to the postmaster general, officials of all the unions, the chairman of the House subcommittee on the Postal Service, U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, then-U.S. Sen. David Pryor and U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson. This article was published on Wednesday, December 6, 2000 RETURN to Northwest Arkansas Section -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright and permissions Copyright © 2000, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.