A former Pennsylvania state House employee is alleging he was wrongly fired by Republicans who control the chamber after he took to social media to defend a Delaware County lawmaker accused of physically or sexually abusing two women, among them a fellow legislator.
Markus Woodring, 44, of Harrisburg,
a onetime computer technician for the House Republican caucus, wrote in a Facebook post in early March that State Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R., Delaware) "is getting crucified with no due process," that the investigation of the alleged misconduct by House lawyers "can't be trusted" and that "their job is to always protect the institution and f- the employees."
He also contended that the two women "aren't pure as the driven snow."
Rep. Tarah Toohil (R., Luzerne) has publicly revealed she is one of the accusers. The other woman has not been publicly identified.
His posts were written on March 1, the same day House Republican leaders called on Miccarelli to resign. The following day, Woodring said, he was fired without being given a specific reason.
A subsequent letter from the House's human resources officials said Woodring had violated portions of the House Republican caucus' internet and social media policy. At an unemployment compensation hearing in April, an outside lawyer retained by the House presented screen shots of Woodring's Facebook posts about Miccarelli.
Woodring says the lawyer from McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC claimed he had posted the statements on state time. He vigorously denies that and also says all the work was done on his personal computer. The House's attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin initially declined to discuss Woodring's accusations. In a statement Wednesday, he said: "We generally do not discuss employment related matters, but with that in mind, any allegation that this individual was fired for defending someone is absolutely false. There were a series of incidents that were brought to our attention by other employees and he was discharged as a result of multiple policy violations."
The two women filed a complaint with House lawyers in early February, claiming that Miccarelli had physically or sexually abused them. Both women had dated him.
Toohil claims that she was hit, pinched and kicked by Miccarelli when they dated in 2012, and that he threatened to kill her with a gun when she tried to end the relationship. The other woman said she was sexually assaulted by Miccarelli in 2014 after they stopped dating.
Miccarelli, 35, a five-term legislator, has vigorously denied the accusations by the two women. After the accusations were made public, he announced that he would not run for reelection but will serve out his term through Nov. 30.
Woodring didn't elaborate on his claims about the women, which their lawyer called an unfair character assassination. "The House believed these women," said the lawyer, Terry Mutchler.
Woodring's lawyer, Mark Schwartz of Bryn Mawr, said that the House GOP Caucus policy on social media states that employees shall not post information that is "defamatory or degrading concerning the House Republican Caucus or employees." But it also maintains any post must be on a matter of "public concern."
"The Republican Caucus has a policy in place that exempts matters of public concern," Schwartz said. "Who is it protecting? The taxpayers are paying for this. Clearly what my client has done was comment on a public matter." The firing violates Woodring's free speech rights, Schwartz said.
Woodring said if Miccarelli did what he was accused of, "he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."