SALISBURY — In what became one of the first real tests of social media and First Amendment rights, at least locally, a civil suit filed by a former Wicomico County employee against the county alleging he was wrongfully terminated for starting a Facebook discussion about proposed employee handbook revisions was settled this week, although the terms of the settlement have not been made public.
In May, former Wicomico County Emergency Management Coordinator David Inkrote filed suit in U.S. District Court against Wicomico County and three of his supervisors claiming his First Amendment rights to free speech were violated when he was terminated after creating a Facebook page in March to provide a forum for discussion on the county’s proposed new employee handbook. The suit sought an undetermined amount in compensatory and punitive damages and was deemed a test case for an employee’s use of Facebook and other social media.
This week, the case was settled before going to trial although the terms of the settlement have not been made public. Inkrote’s attorney, Robin Cockey, this week confirmed the settlement, but said he could not go into detail about the terms, only that it had been resolved before going to trial.
In March, the Wicomico County Council reviewed during a publicly televised session on PAC-14 a draft of the new county employee handbook. According to the suit filed in May, the proposed employee handbook would make substantial revisions to the existing handbook, which has been in effect since 2003.