An Idaho jury has awarded a former Ada County, Idaho, official $1.74 million, concluding a four-year legal battle that began with a whistleblower complaint.
According to the Idaho Statesman, Rich Wright, formerly a television journalist and Boise Police Department spokesman, became Ada County’s spokesman in 2006. He was promoted to lead the Department of Administration in 2008, but was fired in January 2015, one day after two newly elected county commissioners were sworn in.
Mr. Wright filed a lawsuit against the county for $1.5 million, alleging he was fired in retaliation for ordering an investigation of harassment complaints from a commissioner’s office manager raised by some county employees, among other things. The employee in question, who subsequently resigned, had campaigned for the newly elected commissioner who fired Mr. Wright, the whistleblower complaint alleged.
Mr. Wright said he was told that there were no problems with his performance on the job and that his position was being eliminated as part of a reorganization, but he was the only person whose job had been slashed, he alleged.
A district judge had dismissed the case in January 2015, ruling that the state’s Whistleblower Act did not cover Mr. Wright’s claims. The Idaho Supreme Court upheld part of that ruling but remanded other parts of it back to trial court, the Statesman reported.
The trial lasted for one week and the jury deliberated for two hours before returning a verdict.
“This case has dominated four years of my life and to now have a unanimous verdict from the jury makes it all worth it,” Wright told the Statesman. “I stood up for what was right and I hope this sends a clear message to all public employees that they have rights. Dave Case and Jim Tibbs broke the law when they retaliated against me the jury saw that.”
Source: Idaho Statesman