Federal judge upholds $638,148 wrongful termination suit for Deputy County Attorney against county supervisors for whistleblowing

A m e r i c a n  P o s t – G a z e t t e

Distributed by C O M M O N S E N S E , in Arizona

Tuesday,  September 9th, 2014

Supervisors waste more taxpayer dollars appealing verdict against them for retaliating against whistleblowing Deputy County Attorney Maria Brandon

Maricopa County Supervisors will not stop abusing tax dollars in witchhunts against those exposing their corruption

MCBOS-Jail-Card1-1024x791 You don’t need to hear it from us, even the Phoenix New Times is reporting on this latest abuse. Here are some excerpts from their article today:

Maricopa County officials violated the rights of a former deputy county attorney by firing her after she spoke to a local newspaper, a federal judge confirms.

In an eight-page ruling last week that upholds February’s $638,148 jury verdict in the case, U.S District Judge Frederick Martone wrote that “more than sufficient evidence” proved lawyer Maria Brandon’s allegations that the county retaliated against her for talking to an Arizona Republic reporter in 2010.

The case stemmed from a brief, innocuous-sounding quote that Brandon gave to the Arizona Republic for a 2010 article by veteran scribes Craig Harris and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez. The article was about a lawsuit settlement with seven anti-Sheriff Joe Arpaio demonstrators who were arrested unfairly by the sheriff’s office in two 2008 incidents.

Brandon, acting as lawyer for the Sheriff’s Office, didn’t want to pay the protesters more than $7,500 each in a settlement deal. Unexpectedly, lawyers for the Board of Supervisors and Assistant Risk Manager Rocky Armfield had the payout bumped up to a total of nearly half a million bucks.
“I don’t know why they did what they did, and I’m sure they have their reasons,” Brandon told the Republic for the July 9, 2010, article.

 

Whether she realized it, or not, Brandon had stepped on a hornet’s nest. At the time, county administration officials were engaged in a serious feud with the Sheriff’s Office, which was acting unethically in a no-holds-barred attack on the Supervisors and county management that stemmed from a budget dispute. The feud culminated with the 2012 disbarment of former County Attorney Andy Thomas, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “unholy” ally.

 

Armfield and Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson (who sued the county in June 2010, later receiving a $122,000 settlement) complained about Brandon to her employer. County Attorney’s Office supervisors then took the suggestion to strip Brandon of all of her risk-management cases. The move “all but eliminated her workload and undermined her reputation and standing” in the county attorney’s office, which ultimately led to her firing, Judge Martone wrote.

Evidence in the case revealed that Wilson and Armfield, in pressuring the County Attorney’s Office to do something about Brandon, overstepped their authority.

As we covered earlier this year, the County Attorney’s Office blamed Brandon for causing an altercation with paralegal Jackie Garcia — even though Garcia had made threats in front of other office employees to “kick [Brandon’s] ass.” Garcia was given a five-day unpaid suspension, while Brandon, a 31-year employee of the county, was fired.

Larry Cohen, Brandon’s lawyer, told the jury that discipline for the altercation with Garcia was the invented “pretext” for firing Brandon. Judge Martone seems to back up that contention in his new ruling — thus making Brandon’s supervisors at the CA’s Office look underhanded.

 

In an accompanying ruling last week, Martone also ordered the county to pay an additional $10,817 to Brandon for various court costs.

 

Read Judge Martone’s full ruling 

 

If the county supervisors attempt to appeal this to the Ninth Circuit, when are the grown-ups going to step up and stop this abuse of taxpayers’ dollars?

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