As Loudoun County assessor, Todd Kaufman headed a team that determined the real estate value of every property in the wealthiest county in America. He received glowing job evaluations and numerous awards.
Now, Kaufman, 51, contends in a newly filed lawsuit that an anonymous letter sent by a disgruntled employee in March sparked an investigation, that the employee’s allegations were false and that Kaufman was not allowed to meet with the Board of Supervisors before he was fired.
Kaufman took over as the county assessor in 2005 and was an “at-will” employee of the Board of Supervisors. When board members decided to fire him, they were required, under the terms of his contract, to pay him nine months’ salary plus accumulated leave, which totaled $148,787, Loudoun officials said last month.
Kaufman’s lawsuit, filed Monday in Loudoun County Circuit Court, alleges defamation, conspiracy and tortious interference against three county officials and an outside investigator. He is seeking economic damages, including the loss of wages and future income — his annual salary was $147,015 — and punitive damages. He is not seeking reinstatement.
Kaufman alleges that John D. Nelson, the supervising appraiser in charge of commercial and industrial appraisals, who reported to Kaufman, sent an unsigned, single-spaced five-page letter to County Administrator Tim Hemstreet on March 27. The letter alleges various offensive statements or physically threatening actions by Kaufman. Nelson was quickly identified as the letter’s author, the suit states.
Kaufman claims that Hemstreet and Loudoun County Attorney John R. Roberts conspired to place only negative or untrue information about him before the Board of Supervisors, leading to his sudden ouster, and that Hemstreet and Roberts advised the board not to hear Kaufman’s side.
Nelson, Hemstreet and Roberts are named as defendants in Kaufman’s lawsuit. They did not respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment Thursday.
After Nelson’s letter was received, the county hired an independent mediator, James R. Cross of Manassas, to investigate. Cross interviewed Kaufman and 18 other current or former county employees, and he prepared a seven-page report, submitted May 15, that ignored some of Nelson’s allegations, deemed a claim of sexual harassment “not sustained” and concluded that Kaufman had not created a hostile work environment.
But the report also found that Kaufman made inappropriate comments and managed his employees “in a manner that was threatening, intimidating and bullying.” Cross concluded that Kaufman had violated a county policy prohibiting “minor use of offensive or discourteous language” and had possibly violated a prohibition against the “use of abusive or threatening language toward the public or other employees.”
Cross, also named as a defendant in Kaufman’s suit, would not comment Thursday.