Vaughn Prison Instructor Says He Was Fired For Talking About Rio - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Vaughn Prison Instructor Says He Was Fired For Talking About Riot

Posted: 11/07/2017 01:55:00 -05:00 Updated:
The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. (Photo: WBOC) The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del. (AP) - A former prison culinary instructor sued Delaware education officials in federal court Monday, claiming he was wrongfully fired for speaking about a deadly prison riot and hostage taking.

In the complaint, Anthony Stella claims state officials violated his free speech rights and breached the terms of his employment contract by terminating him without just cause.

"The defendants took action adverse against plaintiff as a direct and proximate result of and in retaliation for plaintiff's First Amendment protected speech on matters of public concern," Stella's lawyers wrote.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Delaware Department of Education, Education Secretary Susan Bunting, and Sandra Waldee-Warden, a teaching supervisor at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.

Stella was working at Department of Correction's maximum-security prison in Smyrna when inmates seized a building on Feb. 1, killing correctional officer Steven Floyd and taking three other staffers hostage. Two of the hostages were released during a standoff that lasted nearly 20 hours before police used a backhoe to breach a wall and rescue a female counselor.

With the prison on lockdown, Stella said he other prison workers could listen to hostage negotiations that were being broadcast over corrections officers' radios and, as officials later discovered, could also be heard by the public over broadband radio.

After being confined to the prison for several hours, Stella was driving home when he received a call from a reporter with the News Journal of Wilmington and began speaking to him about his experiences that day as "a private citizen on a matter of public interest." The interview was posted on the newspaper's website later that night. Stella also posted his thoughts about conditions at the prison on Facebook that same night but says he immediately deleted them after being contacted by a Department of Education supervisor.

"Plaintiff's Facebook post was not an official communication concerning the prison education program on behalf of DOC or DOE but rather a statement by a private citizen on a matter of public concern," the complaint states. Stella nevertheless says he was notified in March that the DOE intended to terminate his employment for "misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty."

The notification said his actions violated the education department's external communication policy, the Department of Correction's public information and media policy, and the DOC's code of conduct.

Stella says he was terminated by Bunting in April, and that a hearing officer upheld that decision on appeal in an August ruling. Stella is seeking monetary damages, and an injunction ending what he describes as the illegal communications policies of the DOE and DOC. A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Four Arrested Following Walgreens Robbery and Police Chase in Lewes

    Four Arrested Following Walgreens Robbery and Police Chase in Lewes

    Apr 20, 2018 10:45 PM2018-04-21 02:45:00 GMT
    Saturday, April 21 2018 12:08 AM EDT2018-04-21 04:08:06 GMT
    (Photo Credit: MGN Online)(Photo Credit: MGN Online)
    (Photo Credit: MGN Online)(Photo Credit: MGN Online)
    LEWES, Del. -- Delaware State Police arrestedMore
    Delaware State Police arrested four men early Friday morning after they stole drugs from the Walgreens pharmacy and led police on a chase.  State Police arrestedMore
  • Two Salisbury Men Arrested in 2017 Homicide

    Two Salisbury Men Arrested in 2017 Homicide

    Apr 20, 2018 4:49 PM2018-04-20 20:49:00 GMT
    Friday, April 20 2018 5:39 PM EDT2018-04-20 21:39:40 GMT
    Lee R. Braboy (left) and Dionte K. Dutton (right)Lee R. Braboy (left) and Dionte K. Dutton (right)
    Lee R. Braboy (left) and Dionte K. Dutton (right)Lee R. Braboy (left) and Dionte K. Dutton (right)
    SALISBURY, Md. -- Investigators with Maryland State Police's homicide unit arresetd two Salisbury men Friday in connection to a shooting homicide outside a VFW in 2017. According to State Police, Lee R. Braboy, 38, and Dionte K. Dutton, 33, both of SalisbMore
    Investigators with Maryland State Police's homicide unit arrested two Salisbury men Friday in connection to a shooting homicide outside a VFW in 2017. More
  • Salisbury Man Sentenced in Rape of Teen

    Salisbury Man Sentenced in Rape of Teen

    Apr 20, 2018 4:51 PM2018-04-20 20:51:00 GMT
    Friday, April 20 2018 4:54 PM EDT2018-04-20 20:54:05 GMT
    A Salisbury man has received the maximum prison sentence in the rape of a 13-year-old relative.More
    A Salisbury man has received the maximum prison sentence in the rape of a 13-year-old relative.More
Powered by Frankly

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices