LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- A former attorney for Lane County has been awarded over $228,000 after a federal jury found his free speech was violated by Lane County and former Lane County administrator Liane Richardson.
In 2011 and 2012, Lane County attorney Marc Kardell spoke out against Richardson over a number of investigations she lead against other county employees.
Court documents state Kardell believed those investigations were done for personal reasons. After bringing his concerns to Human Resources, he was laid off.
"The jury's verdict here is important both in providing monetary relief to Mr. Kardell who was wrongfully retaliated against, but even more than that it's a victory for free speech, it's a victory for good government," said Colin Hunter, Kardell's attorney.
Below is a statement from Kardell:
“I’m grateful for the jury’s diligent service, and I’m thankful to the current and former County employees who testified in this case. After nearly 7 years of legal battles, the truth has finally come out: I exercised my constitutional right to speak up about abuses of power, and the County punished me for doing so. It was an honor to serve the people of Lane County for 13 years as an Assistant County Counsel, and I’m glad the truth about my service has finally come out with the jury’s help.”
Richardson, who now goes by Davis, was later fired after she allegedly altered her benefits pay.
County spokewoman Devon Ashbridge said that while Richardson is no longer employed by the county, county taxpayers are still on the hook for her portion of the damages. Ashbridge said they have filed a motion to throw the verdict out. She said if they do end up paying up, the money won't come out of any one department's budget, but a fund set up for cases like this.
Meanwhile, Hunter said they're still waiting to hear the judge's decision on whether the county will also be on the hook for the costs of legal fees.
"The total amount after seven years of litigation does run into the six figures," Hunter said. "Ultimately the judge will decide what a fair dollar figure is."
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