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Justice Department denies female federal attorney received unfair pay, treatment in Spokane

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Washington disputed allegations that it did not pay a former federal prosecutor less because she was a woman, and defended its discipline of her for accessing sensitive information, according to a court filing in federal court this week.

Jill Bolton filed a civil lawsuit in October against Loretta Lynch, attorney general for the United States, alleging male employees working under U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby received bigger raises and bonuses for their work than she did.

Bolton also said she was denied access to pay rates for her coworkers, and she was unfairly placed on indefinite unpaid leave when Ormsby learned she had obtained the information from another employee after waiting nearly three years for a response to a Freedom of Information Act request for salary information.

In a 19-page response filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Spokane, Ann E. Harwood, a special U.S. attorney from Arizona assigned to the case, says Bolton received sensitive information in violation of federal law and that the male employees who received bonuses had “superior qualifications” and “were paid based on quantity or quality of production,” not on their sex.

“No similarly-situated employees were treated more favorably than” Bolton, Harwood wrote in her response.

Mary Schultz, the Spokane-based attorney representing Bolton, did not return a call Wednesday requesting comment on the response from the federal government.

Bolton, who had been the lead attorney in the case against imprisoned payday loan scammer Doris Nelson, left her post with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern Washington in October, nearly a year after she was placed on unpaid leave by Ormsby. Bolton, who was the first woman to serve as a deputy criminal chief attorney in the office, received a disk containing “thousands of Privacy Act protected records regarding current and former” employees of the office that included contact information, Social Security numbers and background check results, Harwood wrote.

Bolton filed a request for salary information in June 2011. It was provided by the federal government through a public records request in May 2014, according to court records.

The employee who provided the records to Bolton left the office before a full investigation took place, according to court records. Ormsby asked another U.S. Attorney’s Office to consider filing criminal charges against Bolton for what he called a data breach, but they declined before the investigation had been completed, Harwood wrote.

It’s not the first time Bolton has filed a lawsuit against an employer alleging discrimination. As a deputy prosecutor, she sued her boss in Blaine County, Idaho, in 2000, alleging she hadn’t received the same access to technology training as her male counterparts. That suit settled out of court.

In addition to unequal pay, Bolton alleges Ormsby and other male supervisors undermined her authority while she was acting as a deputy chief. Court documents filed this week also deny those claims.

Donald W. Molloy, a U.S. District Court judge in Montana, has been assigned to oversee the case, after Spokane-based U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice recused himself. A hearing is scheduled next month.

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