A woman who says she was fired by the Spokane County coroner because she is a Democrat filed a $1 million claim against the county.
The claim pits a 14-year employee who calls herself an “outspoken Democrat” against her former boss, Republican Dexter Amend.
Amend talked about creating an “all Republican office” before firing Causna Albin and replacing her with a Republican state committeewoman, according to the claim filed Monday.
The January firing violated Albin’s civil rights, said her attorney, William Powell.
“Unless you’re in a policymaking position, terminating you for political reasons violates your First Amendment rights,” he said.
Amend refused comment on Tuesday. Earlier this year, he said he fired Albin because of her performance, not politics.
“The proof is in the pudding of who he hired to replace Causna,” said Powell, referring to Anne Frank, Amend’s new staff assistant.
Frank, who is currently Republican state committeewoman, served as campaign manager for County Commissioner Phil Harris.
She is also a precinct committeewoman and is chairing the Republicans’ annual Lincoln Day Dinner on March 11, which will feature a speech by George Nethercutt.
Amend fired Albin, a 53-yearold staff assistant, because of her “political affiliations and support,” according to the claim.
Powell said he has witnesses who can testify that Amend vowed to have a Republican staff.
The claim seeks $500,000 for loss of income, fringe benefits and retirement benefits, and another $500,000 for punitive damage.
Albin earned $29,085 per year. Frank earns the same amount, because of a “advance step” request by Amend to place her at top scale, said Catherine Harmon, personnel manager.
County commissioners have 60 days to decide whether to settle the dispute without going to court, said Powell.
If an agreement isn’t reached, Powell said he will file a lawsuit in Spokane County Superior Court.
Skip Wright, human resources director for the county, said the coroner has the right to fire secretaries at will, with a few exceptions.
Terminations can’t be based on age, sex or race, for instance. It’s unclear whether assistants can be fired based on political preference, Wright said.
The dispute began even before Amend replaced Graham McConnell as coroner.
Amend visited the coroner’s office just before the New Year’s holiday weekend and told Albin she was working her last day, Albin said.
McConnell objected, saying Amend didn’t have the right to fire her when he wasn’t even coroner yet.
On Jan. 6, Albin received a written notice of her firing.
Frank was initially hired as a temporary replacement, then hired full-time on Jan. 24 after the position was advertised.
Albin worked for Amend once before, in the mid-1980s during his first term as coroner.
“She worked for him for four years before and he didn’t seem to find any problems with her,” said Powell.
Albin said Monday she is doing volunteer work at her church while looking for a new job.