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News >  Idaho

Ex-probation officer to sue county

A probation officer who worked for Kootenai County’s failed juvenile drug court plans to sue for $354,000, alleging that she was verbally abused, harassed and intimidated by Prosecutor Bill Douglas.

Dannie Fast Swanson filed a tort claim against the county Aug. 30, saying she was subjected to a “nearly intolerable working environment” and retaliated against when she voiced concerns about management of the now-defunct Juvenile Education and Training Court. The hostility made Swanson so uncomfortable that she felt she was forced to quit, said Doug Marfice, Swanson’s attorney.

Swanson also filed a separate complaint with the Idaho Human Rights Commission regarding the hostile work environment, Marfice said.

Kootenai County has 90 days to respond to the tort claim, at which time Swanson can decide whether to sue. County commission Chairman Gus Johnson said the case has been referred to the county’s insurance company.

Douglas said he was surprised by the claim and that Swanson’s allegations are false.

“In our democracy, anyone can say anything they want about anyone else even if it’s untrue,” Douglas said. “These allegations are untrue. I was a very good boss to Dannie.”

Douglas oversaw the JET Court and was Swanson’s direct supervisor when she was assigned as the program’s juvenile probation officer in July 2004.

In her claim, Swanson alleges that the repeated abuse and harassment occurred because Douglas was having an affair with JET Court Coordinator Marina Kalani – a claim both Douglas and Kalani deny.

“I think I’m exhausted by the story,” Kalani said Tuesday. “Eveybody’s got to be. I suppose I could say she is capitalizing on an allegation raised (by the media).”

The county commission began investigating JET Court after it came to an abrupt end Feb. 16 – when the program’s judge quit, saying he had “serious concerns about ongoing personnel problems and legal issues.”

The commission then requested e-mails between Douglas and Kalani. The e-mails didn’t reveal any financial problems but the commission said they did raise concerns about an improper relationship between Douglas and Kalani.

Swanson claims that Douglas and Kalani had an inappropriate relationship that usurped the chain-of-command and resulted in Swanson doing not only her job but the work of Kalani. She alleges that Douglas allowed the situation to continue because of his relationship with Kalani.

In addition, Swanson’s claim raises concerns about haphazard accounting of the JET Court funds. She contends that when the issue was raised with Douglas he verbally harassed and intimidated her for “lack of loyalty.”

The county commission investigated the JET Court account and found no problems. Yet Johnson said it’s possible Swanson may have information that wasn’t previously disclosed.

“We don’t know,” Johnson said. “This has to go through the legal process.”

Kalani denies mismanaging the money, but said some other JET Court employees wanted to spend some of it in questionable ways, such as paying for unwarranted mileage and planning to attend a conference in Florida. The court was disbanded before the conference.

Swanson also alleges that Douglas allowed or instructed Kalani to visit his son while Jeremy Douglas was in the Shoshone County jail, as part of her job. Kalani testified in a January court hearing on behalf of Jeremy Douglas, saying he was interested in working with – and mentoring – JET Court youth when he was released.

Swanson resigned April 21, the same day it was made public that Kalani had received a $70,000 settlement after she threatened to sue Kootenai County over a memo allegedly criticizing her job performance.

The county’s insurance program, Idaho Counties Risk Management, said it negotiated the settlement to prevent a potentially more-costly lawsuit. Yet ICRMP said the settlement didn’t make any judgment about the content of the memo written by J.T. Taylor, who manages the District 1 Juvenile Detention Center.

Marfice said Swanson had applied for other positions in the county probation department but she didn’t get either job because of the stigma associated with the JET Court failure.

Douglas said he thought Swanson left the county because she got a better paying job as a recruiter with the Idaho National Guard and that he was unaware that she had any problems with him or his office.

“She even asked if she could use me as a job reference,” Douglas said.

Kalani also voluntarily quit the JET Court program. Her March 21 resignation came the day after Kootenai County commissioners released heavily edited copies of roughly half of the 1,060 e-mail exchanges in the past year between Kalani and Douglas. Those e-mail messages had been requested by the media under state public records laws.

Cowles Publishing Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review, sued the county to gain access to all of the e-mail messages, without editing. In July, a judge ruled that they are public record and not protected by privacy laws.

The e-mails have not been released, however, pending appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court.

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