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June 11, 2014

Hearing over harassment complaint continued

— A former longtime employee of Community Action Partnership of Cambria County is claiming her former employer, Jeffrey Vaughn, harassed and caused her physical discomfort.

A hearing on a private criminal complaint filed by Lenore Meketa was continued Wednesday by Johnstown District Judge Michael Musulin to give her time to have someone from the Cambria County District Attorney’s office represent her.

A new hearing date has not been set.

Meketa, of the 200 block of Highland Park Road, Johnstown, who headed up the nonprofit agency’s WIC program for 25 years, alleges in her complaint that Vaughn grabbed her upper arms and refused to allow her to leave his office.

The incident allegedly occurred shortly after 9 a.m. Jan. 24 at the agency’s 516 Main St. office, subsequent to Vaughn firing Meketa.

Meketa told The Tribune-Democrat on Wednesday that she was fired for alleged mishandling of a letter from the state Department of Community and Economic Development critical of the financial stability and practices of the Johnstown-based agency.

Meketa denied making the letter available to others.

Vaughn of the 300 block of Liberty Avenue, Cresson, who took over as Community Action executive director about two years ago, appeared for the hearing, but left comment to his attorney Steven Passarello of Altoona said Vaughn denies the allegations made by Meketa and has a witness who was in Vaughn’s office at the time of the alleged confrontation.

“This was a standard business meeting ... nothing of any criminal nature occurred,” Passarello said as he left Muslin’s office. “He absolutely denies that there was any touching that rises to the level of the criminal charge.”

In her private complaint, Meketa said the witness had her back to her and Vaughn and did not see the initial contact.

Meketa contacted city police following the incident and the officer, after taking the information, did not find the confrontation met the level of the criminal complaint, Passarello said.

“We have an eyewitness and it was definitely not even close,” he said.

Meketa provided a photograph showing bruises on both sides of her upper arms.

She also said she sustained a sprained neck and back, according to a report from the emergency department at Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, where she sought care on Feb. 3.

In March, the harassment charge was approved by the office of District Attorney Kelly Callihan because it reached the level of a misdemeanor III, the lowest level above a summary offense, a representative of that office said.

Callihan said through a representative that a member of her staff would prosecute the case.

Community Action handles a wide variety of services, especially for the disadvantaged. Along with WIC, it heads up employment/training services, drug prevention, Head Start, medical transportation and others.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

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