A former teacher at St. Martin Catholic School has filed a civil lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City.
Jill Otto is claiming defamation in her suit, which also names the school; the Rev. Louis Nelen, who was pastor at St. Martin Catholic Church at the time; Sister Elizabeth Youngs, superintendent of schools for the diocese; school principal Eddie Mulholland; and Melissa and Roger Pecher as defendants.
Otto was working as a teacher at St. Martin and, in March 2018, was offered a new contract to continue working there, according to the lawsuit.
Between March 15 and April 2 last year, Otto states in her suit, Melissa Pecher, then an administrative assistant at St. Martin School, and her husband, Roger, without Otto's knowledge, made false statements to Mulholland, Nelen and Youngs.
The Pechers allegedly claimed Otto had sent social media posts to their children in an attempt to frighten and bully them and that Otto was stalking their family, according to the lawsuit.
Otto's employment at St. Martins was terminated April 2. On April 5, Otto claims, Mulholland, Nelen and Youngs allowed a group of parents and other teachers at St. Martin School to meet to discuss Otto without her consent.
Otto alleges the Pechers made false claims about her in that meeting. Otto also notes she was unable to attend the meeting and answer questions to defend herself because Melissa Pecher had filed for and obtained an order of protection against Otto prohibiting her from being anywhere near Melissa Pecher.
Otto said the Pechers' claims in that meeting included Otto would follow Melissa Pecher around the school, Otto had spied on their family, and Otto had an application on her smartphone allowing her to track Melissa Pecher's location.
Otto also claims there was no reason for Mullholland, Nelen and Youngs to allow the meeting to occur since she had been fired prior to the meeting.
Otto alleges, because the false accusations became part of her employment record, her reputation has been damaged and she has been unable to obtain employment as a teacher in Mid-Missouri or at any Catholic school in Missouri.
Otto is asking for a jury trial to determine damages as the court deems appropriate, as well as costs and attorney's fees.
In an emailed statement, Director of Diocesan Communications Helen Osman said: "The diocese has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation."
This article was edited at 1:30 p.m. March 14, 2019, to clarify that defendants Melissa and Roger Pecher allegedly claimed plaintiff Jill Otto had sent social media posts to their children in an attempt to frighten and bully them.