Spokane County Prosecutor Jim Sweetser is being sued for wrongful termination by two former deputy prosecutors.
Joining the lawsuit are two other longtime employees who fear they’ll be fired next.
Sweetser fired deputies Michelle Solinsky and Jennifer Boharski on Jan. 3, the day after he took office, claiming he did so because they weren’t “team players.”
“I’ve complied with all provisions of the law,” Sweetser said Friday.
But attorneys Carl Maxey and Dennis Cronin, representing the women, accuse the prosecutor of violating his campaign pledge to fire employees only for “just cause,” such as demonstrated incompetence.
Maxey claims Sweetser illegally got rid of the deputies for political reasons, because they were actively supporting his opponent in the prosecutor’s race last fall.
Sweetser replaced them with two former deputies, Dave Hearrean and Steve Kinn, both of whom were active in his campaign.
Maxey is also representing employees Tana Jenecke and Dorothy Scott, who say Sweetser intends to get rid of them and is advertising their jobs.
Scott runs the victims’ assistance unit, while Jenecke served as former Prosecutor Don Brockett’s administrative assistant.
Both women supported Steve Matthews, Sweetser’s opponent in the election.
A temporary restraining order barring Sweetser from firing Jenecke and Scott was issued Thursday by Adams County Superior Court Judge Richard Miller.
Miller is scheduled to hear legal arguments Jan. 30 in Ritzville.
Spokane County judges have disqualified themselves from any involvement in the case.
Besides wrongful termination, Maxey accuses Sweetser of gender discrimination against Boharski and Solinsky, claiming they were replaced with less-qualified male prosecutors.
Sweetser, however, said he has the legal authority to fire employees without cause.
He said the decision to fire Boharski and Solinsky was a difficult one, but necessary to accomplish his goals of improving morale and restructuring the office.
As for the discrimination charge, Sweetser said he has already promoted women to leadership posts, including Pat Thompson, the new chief criminal deputy prosecutor.
Sweetser also pointed to other newly elected prosecutors in Thurston, Kitsap and Snohomish counties, who have hired and fired employees since taking office.