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UCDD settles Pealer lawsuit, women reinstated
Two employees fired by the Upper Cumberland Development District have been returned to their jobs, and the lawsuit filed by one of the workers has been settled.Ashley and Kathy Pealer reportedly returned to work last week after the agency reinstated both women.Ashley Pealer filed a federal lawsuit against the agency after she and her mother, Kathy Pealer, were fired in June, alleging that her constitutional rights were violated when UCDD employees hacked into her personal cell phone messages and Facebook account.The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee Northeast Division.The document alleged that violations of the Stored Communications Act and the Wiretap Act had been committed, and that former interim Executive Director Randy Williams and Board Chairman Mike Gannon were involved.Pealer was demoted from interim deputy director during the same meeting Williams was named interim executive director, and is now the agency's economic and development coordinator.According to the suit, the intent was to embarrass and intimidate her in retaliation for her refusal to remain silent about the illegal activities of former UCDD Executive Director Wendy Askins, and to determine the extent to which Pealer was involved in revealing Askins’ conduct to the media.Pealer claimed that after she was fired, and her UCDD-issued cell phone was taken by the agency, that more than 300 pages of her private text messages, stored in Verizon databanks, were accessed by UCDD employees, and were printed and passed around the office.The suit alleged that agency employees used her private password to access her Facebook account, sending messages meant to embarrass her.Agency employees also allegedly intercepted a private email communication to her Facebook account.Pealer was represented by W. Gary Blackburn of Nashville.In the weeks since the women were fired, some members of the UCDD board made an initial unsuccessful attempt to forward a recommendation to new Executive Director Mark Farley to reinstate them, but finally received the number of votes necessary to push the recommendation through.