SOURCE: Handal & Associates

July 27, 2005 11:18 ET

Orange County in the Hot Seat Again Only Months After Jury Awarded Former County Employee a $1.7 Million Verdict

New Suit Alleges Wrongful Discrimination and Termination of Orange County Employee

SAN DIEGO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- July 27, 2005 -- Handal & Associates today announced it is preparing for trial in a suit against the County of Orange for wrongful discrimination and termination of a county employee. Opening arguments are set to begin on August 22, 2005, in the case of a former county Fleet Services manager who alleged that county officials conspired to fire him after he made allegations that they were mismanaging his department.

Barry Adams, a 30-year employee with the County of Orange, claims he was wrongfully demoted and transferred in an effort to force him to quit his position after refusing to support budgetary numbers proffered to the Board of Supervisors in their bid to retain control over the Sheriff's Department fleet services account. Adams discovered that the county had been overcharging the Sheriff's Department for years and brought this to the attention of county officials. Upon refusing to corroborate their numbers, the County retaliated against him by demoting and transferring him to a job they knew he would have difficulties performing due to his pulmonary fibrosis.

Adams alleges that county officials conspired to tarnish his reputation and fire him before he could blow the whistle on them. Adams claims the county made false accusations in order to place him on administrative leave, and county officials ransacked his office and conducted an investigation into his private life in an effort to uncover information that can be used to terminate him.

Unsuccessful in their attempts, the County demoted and transferred Adams to a specially created job in the Flood Control department. At that time, Adams suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal lung disease and struggled in an awkward and physically demanding position, which, he alleges, was designed to force him to quit his job. Facing a fatal disease, Adams was forced to accept the demotion and transfer to keep his health insurance. He subsequently underwent a life-saving double-lung transplant in January of 2004.

This is not the first lawsuit of this kind faced by the County. In April of 2005, a jury awarded, Pamela Mokler, a former County of Orange Department of Aging executive, $1.7 million after finding that county officials conspired to terminate her after she raised allegations of their mismanagement of funds. Mokler claimed that the County of Orange wrongfully terminated her when she complained about the County's violations of federal and state law and supervisors feared she would inform authorities about departmental changes that could affect funding from the state. In May of 2005, jurors from the Mokler case complained that a county hired investigator was harassing them at their homes. Investigation into that matter is still ongoing.

To learn more about the Firm or this matter, contact Pamela C. Chalk at pchalk@handal-law.com or 619-544-6486.

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