by Jerry Bellune
Six months after Lexington County cleaned up courthouse mold, 48 employees say they have severe health problems.
“Several have cancer, others had to have hysterectomies,” said Lexington attorney Richard Breibart, who is representing them.
“Do you know what the odds are of that many people having those kinds of problems?” he asked
“Thousands to one.”
The county closed the courthouse and the solicitor’s office last December and spent $400,000 to remove mold after judges and other employees complained of allergic reactions.
County Administrator Art Brooks said the mold has been completely removed, and ceiling tiles, wall board and carpeting replaced.
“The last time we tested the air quality, the levels were lower than the air outside,” Brooks said.
Yet Linda Cooley who works for the solicitor’s office says mold made her ill.
She complained to the Workers’ Compensation Commission that she “was continuously exposed to mold and toxic fumes” and suffers from fibromyalgia, lung and sinus problems and breast cancer.
“This is the third time she has been forced to take time off,” Breibart said. “She has used all her sick leave.”
He said his secretary had been told the county has terminated Cooley.
“That’s not smart with a worker compensation claim pending,” he said.
Breibart said he began to hear complaints from county employees some months ago and hired attorney Jon Popowski, who handles worker compensation cases, to help him.
“In over 25 years of practicing law, I’ve never seen anything like that,” Popowski said.
Popowski accused county officials of “intentionally exposing” employees to hazards “of which they are well aware.”