(CN) – A former deputy city manager who was fired after investigating janitors found to have watched videos at work of animals having sex should have been able to review certain public records about the case, a federal judge in Seattle ruled.
U.S. District Judge James Robart ordered the city of Mercer Island, Wa., to pay $90,560 to Londi Lindell, who said the city retaliated against her and sexually harassed her when she investigated several maintenance workers reported to have watched the video and to have made comments about the animals’ anatomy and enthusiasm while watching the video at work.
During a meeting with the employees about appropriate work behavior, employee Johnny Segle, who had watched the video, said in front of the group, “What, no more boobies?”
Lindell recommended a written reprimand against Segle, who is married to the city’s human resources director. After a lengthy dispute over the investigation, Lindell was fired in April 2008.
In preparation for her suit against the city, Lindell “sent an extensive and detailed [public records] request” for documents related to her termination and the prior investigation.
The city claimed the documents Lindell requested were protected by attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine. After Lindell filed her lawsuit, the court granted her motion to compel documents.
“Only after the court threatened to hold the City in contempt of court did the City finally turn over the documents that were wrongfully withheld from production in response to both Ms. Lindell’s PRA request and her discovery requests,” Judge Robart wrote.
Lindell and the city resolved all of the disputed employment claims, with the exception of Lindell’s requests for public records.
“While there is nothing before the court indicating why the documents were released well after Ms. Lindell’s requests were made, the court presumes that the City made its own determination that these records should have been produced in response to the PRA request,” Robart wrote.
“Unfortunately for the City, its determination that the documents were responsive was over two years delinquent.”
The court agreed with Lindell that the city’s withholding of documents related to the investigation caused her personal economic loss, and that the loss was foreseeable by the city.