JANUARY 13, 2010
A veteran attorney in a Kentucky county prosecutor’s office claims she was fired for reporting that her boss, an elected official, illegally pressured lawyers in the department to donate money to his political campaign and party.
Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell used the "fear [of] his wrath" to pressure assistant prosecutors to donate to his political campaign and Democrats, according to a lawsuit filed this week by the fired prosecutor (Glenda Bradshaw). A former Jefferson County director of criminal prosecutions, Bradshaw says her boss “kept track of who did or did not contribute to his campaign” and “was known to summon the campaign contribution list if he was going to take employment action within his office."
She also claims in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed this week that O’Connell created a hostile work environment, discriminated against her because of her gender and retaliated against her for the actions she took. Before getting fired Bradshaw was a prosecutor for nearly 25 years, 16 of them at the county attorney’s office.
A former district and circuit court judge, O’Connell was appointed Jefferson County Attorney last summer as a replacement for the prosecutor who received a judicial appointment. He has been preparing his campaign to run for a full term in the May Democratic primary and has raised a chunk of cash from employees in the county attorney’s office he runs, according to state election finance records.
It’s perfectly legal for employees to contribute to a public official’s election campaign as long as the donations are voluntary and not in any way coerced. O’Connell says he fired Bradshaw for failing to enforce a policy designed to track Louisville Metro Police officers who failed to appear in court and therefore neglecting to report the absences to the department.
O’Connell implemented the system after a local newspaper published a series revealing that more than 600 felony defendants were freed in one year alone because officers failed to appear for district court hearings. Initially prosecutors kept a close watch on the absent cops, but eventually they “weren’t keeping score,” O’Connell said, adding that is what ultimately resulted in Bradshaw’s termination.
Regardless of what version the public believes, this sort of turmoil and legal drama among top prosecutors is certain to have a negative impact in Kentucky’s most populous county. After all, the public pays their salary to put away the bad guys not fight each other.
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