federal jury awarded about $4.9 million to a former Zona Rosa general manager who was wrongfully terminated for her refusal to divert funds from charity to operating funds of the Northland shopping center.
The federal jury found in favor of Rosemary Salerno, of Kansas City, who claimed she was terminated after officials with MPI Management, doing business as Olshan Properties of New York, requested she divert parking meter funds, earmarked for Change for Charity, according to Athena Dickson, Salerno’s attorney.
The termination occurred only a few weeks after Salerno received a positive performance review and raise, said Dickson of the Siro-Smith-Dickson law firm of Kansas City.
The verdict, announced Friday, Oct. 9, awards Salerno about $439,000 in damages, $500,000 in pain and suffering and another $4 million in punitive damages.
A judge will later determine Salerno’s award based on her attorney fees, which also are part of the settlement and must be paid by MPI Management, Dickson said during a Monday afternoon telephone interview.
“We feel like Ms. Salerno was heard,” Dickson said, referring to the multiple layers of alleged unethical and illegal activity, including claims of violation against the Human Rights Act and Whistleblower retaliation.
“I think she (Salerno) was pleased that the jury was able to (observe) the history of a long-time employee,” she said of Salerno’s position as general manager at Zona Rosa which dated back about 14 years.
Trademark Property Group now manages the property, Dickson said.
The verdict follows an earlier decision in Platte County court that also found in Solerno’s favor. The 2019 civil suit was filed by Olshan Properties against Salerno, claiming she used company money to approve the purchase of equipment for a furniture restoration company with which she was involved. Salerno claimed the company was a hobby in her spare time at the same time she worked as the manager at Zona Rosa. Salerno has since been working as a realtor, according to her Facebook page.
But Dickson said a verdict in the federal case does not necessarily signal an end to the matter.
“We don’t know when this will be over. Any jury verdict can always be appealed,” she said, adding that she has no knowledge of further action in the case. She said, “These things tend to take a while, so there’s no certainty.”