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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Five Legal Secretaries|Sue County Prosecutor

VANCOUVER, Wash. (CN) - Five legal secretaries sued the Clark County prosecutor in Washington, claiming his anti-union sentiments caused him to press them to say that a jocular email was a violent threat to shoot him.

One of the secretaries joked in an email about "bringing his union representatives 'Smith and Wesson' to a disciplinary meeting."

Matt Kozlowski, who sent the email, and four female colleagues sued Clark County, its prosecutor Anthony Golik and chief deputy prosecutor Scott Jackson on Feb. 4 in Clark County Court, alleging wrongful firing, discrimination, retaliation and conspiracy.

Clark County, whose seat is Vancouver, is just across the river from Portland, Ore.

All five secretaries were fired: Kozlowski for his alleged threat, and his four colleagues for alleged "'excessive personal use of county email' during work time."

Lead plaintiff Jennifer Jackson et al. say the prosecutor's office had it out for Kozlowski, who was active in the union.

Kozlowski's attorney Alan Harvey told Courthouse News that his client had worked as a shop steward for a chapter of the Office & Professional Employees International Union.

As shop steward, Kozlowski filed a union grievance on behalf of another employee, Harvey said. Though the union declined to pursue the matter, Kozlowski himself prevailed against the county, the attorney said.

Kozlowski's co-workers, plaintiffs Jackson, Kathleen De Stael, Kellie Wray and Jamie Plew, were called into a series of meetings after being subject to a "targeted review of emails."

In one such email, Kozlowski "quipped about bringing his union representatives 'Smith and Wesson' to a disciplinary meeting scheduled for the next day," in response to a question about what kind of "ammo" he would use at the meeting.

The four women say they were called into meetings more than a month after that email exchange, and "each was pressured into stating for the record that Kozlowski's brief email exchange had caused them to fear for their personal safety."

"Further, they were pressured to say that they understood the emails to mean that Kozlowski intended to actually shoot his supervising attorney the morning following the exchange," according to the complaint.

The secretaries say they "stood their ground and refused to give false testimony while stridently maintaining that the email exchange was harmless and obviously made in jest." Then they filed union grievances in response to the pressure.

Prosecutor Golik had Kozlowski arrested for felony harassment without a warrant, and fired him the day after the charge was dismissed by the state attorney general due to a conflict of interest, according to the complaint.

The female secretaries were fired while their grievances were pending, the complaint states.

The Clark County prosecutor's office denied the allegations in the lawsuit, saying the union knew about Kozlowski's termination but did not challenge it.

"All of the plaintiffs were terminated for just cause after comprehensive investigations into their conduct while employed by Clark County," the prosecutor's office told The Columbian newspaper last week.

The plaintiffs sued for discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination and civil conspiracy. Co-counsel with Attorney Harvey, of Northwest Legal Advocates, is Gregory Ferguson, also of Vancouver.

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