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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

D.C. Need not Apologize to Unfairly Fired Woman

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CN) - A woman set to receive half a million dollars from the District of Columbia for firing her cannot also demand an apology, a federal judge ruled.

Jennifer Campbell had been chief operating officer of the Department of Health Care Finance in 2012 when she read in the Washington City Paper that the district was firing her.

At the time of the shakeup, Campbell had been overseeing the contract-bidding process for the city's $80 million health insurance exchange program.

Though the district cited allegations that she steered city contracts to certain vendors, Campbell said she faced retaliation for having objected to a provision of the costly contract to implement the exchange.

When the ousted official's ensuing wrongful termination action went to trial last month, a federal jury agreed that the district had trampled her due-process rights.

In addition to awarded Campbell $250,000 for the due-process violation, the courted D.C. to pay another $304,823 for reputational harm.

This was not enough for Cambell, who also wanted an apology, but U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras said Wednesday she'll have to make do with the cash.

"Because it is unclear whether the court has the authority to order the apology - and because, in any event, the requested apology is not a remedy tailored to fit the constitutional violation in this case - the court will deny Dr. Campbell's request," Contreras wrote.

The four-page opinion says, even if the court had the authority to order an apology, that apology could only appropriately come from individuals who are no longer parties to the case.

"To tailor the remedy to fit the violation, therefore, any apology awarded to Dr. Campbell should come from the persons most responsible for the release of those emails," Contreras wrote. "Based on the record presented in open court at trial, the evidence showed that the individuals who initially provided information to the press - and are thus, in the court's view, most culpable for leaks to the press - are not parties to this case and are no longer employed by the district. The court thus lacks any direct or indirect authority to order their apology."

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