Hermitage lawyer cross-examines former employee

BURLINGTON — A federal court jury heard a defense lawyer for the Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain focus on some salty and derogatory comments used by the former employee who is suing the private resort club on claims of unlawful discharge in August 2014.

During cross examination defense lawyer Stephen D. Ellis questioned Effie Mayhew about numerous text messages and emails she sent to co-workers at the luxury resort and also exchanged with the owner of a local horse stables. As he focused on them, Ellis often asked if she was acting in a positive light on behalf of her employer.

Mayhew, 40, of Wilmington testified some were negative, but others she thought were proper and did not consider to be damaging.

Mayhew believes she was fired in retaliation for reporting to Jim Barnes, the club's founder and president, that the two horses at the Hermitage had not been fed for 48 hours. She also outlined serious questions about other mistreatment of "Will and Bill." Mayhew had maintained that if the mistreatment was reported to proper authorities that it could harm the reputation of the club, which straddles West Dover and Wilmington.

The Hermitage Club has said Mayhew was lawfully fired for her conduct including insubordination.

While Ellis tried to paint Mayhew as a disgruntled employee, her lawyer, Caroline S. Earle of Montpelier, on re-direct examination tried to show it was more out of frustration that she sent the messages. Ellis also tried to show that Mayhew wanted to become the equine manager and was more concerned about her promotion and not the horses.

The eight-member jury - seven women and one man - also got to hear from a second witness on Day 2 of the civil trial. Mike Quinn, Hermitage's vice president and operations manager, took the stand in the afternoon to defend the firing. He said he believed Mayhew showed insubordination.

Quinn said he was unaware about any care issues for the horses before Mayhew agreed to take responsibility for them shortly after she was hired in April 2014. The deposition of Ben Fritz, Mayhew's direct supervisor while at the club, was read to the jury before the trial broke for the day. Fritz no longer works at the private resort club and was unavailable to testify.

The third day of trial starts at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The jury is expected to hear exerts of two other depositions. One is from Ann Brown of Brookside Stables, who helped care for the Hermitage horses and exchanged some text messages with Mayhew that Ellis had used as evidence. The other deposition is from Jeremy Finaldi, a local contractor and partner to Mayhew.

Closing arguments will follow and Senior Federal Judge William K. Sessions will explain the law to the jurors before they



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