Consumer Fraud

Court Allows Whistleblower Retaliation Suit Against New Mexico DA to Stand

whistleblower retaliation 280x210 Court Allows Whistleblower Retaliation Suit Against New Mexico DA to StandA whistleblower lawsuit against a southern New Mexico district attorney has survived a second attempt by the defendant’s attorneys to get the case dismissed.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that New Mexico state judge Jarod Hofacket denied a motion by lawyers representing Dona Ana County District Attorney Mark D’Antonio to reject a whistleblower lawsuit brought by Marylou Bonacci, a former office manager at Mr. D’Antonio’s office.

According to the Sun-News, Ms. Bonacci claims she was terminated in retaliation for speaking out against corruption and other wrongful conduct she allegedly witnessed in the D.A.’s office.

The whistleblower lawsuit, which Ms. Bonacci filed last year, alleges that she confronted Mr. D’Antonio about his meeting with criminal defendants without attorneys present and seeking a loan from the family of a defendant in a drug possession case and offering to dismiss the criminal charges in exchange, the Sun-News reported. The lawsuit suggests that there may have been other such incidents.

The FBI investigated these alleged activities. Ms. Bonacci claims her personnel file was padded with disciplinary actions immediately after Mr. D’Antonio learned of her cooperation with the FBI. She was fired in September 2015, about a month after Mr. D’Antonio learned of her cooperation with the federal investigation.

The whistleblower lawsuit also alleges that Ms. Bonacci was disciplined after raising concerns over the hire of a chief deputy who “was not licensed in the state of New Mexico and not in good standing with other admitted bars,” according to the Sun-News.

During her employment at the DA’s office from 2013 to 2015, Ms. Bonacci also spoke out against other misconduct. She alleges that when two attorneys within the department, one male and one female, were promoted together, the female lawyer was paid less than her male counterpart.

The whistleblower lawsuit further alleges that an assistant district attorney appeared in court intoxicated on two occasions but was never disciplined, only sent home.

Attorneys representing Mr. D’Antonio sought to have the whistleblower lawsuit dismissed based on a previous bankruptcy claim by Ms. Bonacci. They argued unsuccessfully that Ms. Bonacci lost her standing to sue because she had not declared her lawsuit as an asset in her initial bankruptcy proceeding.