- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - Cascade County fired the general manager of Montana ExpoPark after an investigation found she charged personal purchases to the county, bullied employees and misused sponsorship benefits, according her termination letter.

County commissioners voted Thursday to allow Lisa Bracco to resign in return for dropping her wrongful-discharge lawsuit. The county also agreed not to fight any attempts by Bracco to obtain unemployment benefits.

Bracco later agreed to make the settlement and other documents public, The Great Falls Tribune (https://gftrib.com/1qHe8KC) reported. The newspaper had pressured the county for months to learn why Bracco was suspended with pay in March and fired in May from her $61,000-a-year job at the county-owned major events center. She was named general manager in 2009.

The county alleged Bracco gave away $2,000 worth of VIP seating for a June 2013 Miranda Lambert concert to family members and a friend and obtained a trailer lease in exchange for a trucking company’s advertising at the State Fair and used it to haul hay for her horse. The county also alleged she took county-purchased wood shavings to use as bedding for her horse, sold some to a woman who boarded Bracco’s horse, improperly used other benefits from sponsors and asked an employee to solicit free alcohol for an employee Christmas party in 2013.

The county also said Bracco’s actions toward employees contributed to it having to make payouts in discrimination or wrongful-termination claims. It did not list the claims or the amount paid.

Bracco denied the allegations that she failed to return all county property, including a key to her office; gave an employee a silver bracelet that was to be given to rodeo royalty; didn’t work her required hours; and used a $2,500 credit at Pizza Hut and other food gift cards for employee meals.

Attorney Kenneth Olson characterized the county’s investigation into employee complaints against Bracco as a “legalized witch hunt” that “clearly encouraged vitriolic statements” by ExpoPark employees that was designed to cast Bracco in the worst possible light.

But the county commissioners said in Bracco’s termination letter: “Contrary to this assertion, Ms. Bracco’s employees have complained about her for several years and many of them have pursued legal action against the county, alleging wrongful termination and human rights violations. Despite the growing evidence of poor management, both the County Commissioners and County Attorney’s Office continued to stand behind Ms. Bracco and defend allegations made against her and the county.”

Beginning in the fall of 2013, however, several ExpoPark employees began to make their complaints in writing, the commissioners said.

Great Falls police handled the investigation, and the results were turned over to the attorney general’s office. No criminal charges have been filed against Bracco, said John Barnes, spokesman for Attorney General Tim Fox.

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Information from: Great Falls Tribune, https://www.greatfallstribune.com

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