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Monday, August 10, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Investigator says most allegations in discrimination lawsuit against Spokane County Public Defender’s office unfounded

An independent investigator has concluded most of the allegations in a lawsuit filed by a Spokane County attorney against the public defender’s office are unfounded.

The lawsuit, seeking $500,000 in damages, alleges employment discrimination by management within the county office. It was filed in late October by Brooke Hagara, a public defender, who asserts that the office director, Thomas Krzyminski, passed her up for promotional opportunities because she was pregnant, along with other discriminatory practices.

Thomas McLane, an employment defense lawyer, was hired by the county to investigate Hagara’s allegations, which include maternity discrimination, hostile work environment, promotions of less qualified male attorneys, pay cuts to female attorneys, female attorneys being spoken to about professional attire and refusing to sign required certifications, and retaliation as a result of filing her complaint.

In a lengthy report submitted Oct. 14, McLane found a lack of evidence to support the allegations.

“The ultimate question in this case is whether or not there was sex discrimination in the Spokane County Public Defender’s office as alleged by Ms. Hagara,” he wrote in his conclusion. “Although not dispositive of the discrimination allegations, the gender breakdown of attorneys and numbers of promotions did not raise discrimination issues.”

Kevin Roberts, Hagara’s attorney, said he wasn’t surprised to see McLane reach that conclusion.

“I have a lot of respect for Tom, but Tom is an employment defense lawyer,” he said. “The perspective that he’s looking at this from is entirely different from the perspective of an attorney in the office or anyone else looking at these facts standing alone.”

Roberts added, “They hired a white male to determine whether another white male discriminated. When I look at this report, the conclusion really doesn’t match what the facts are.”

During his investigation, McLane claims to have interviewed over 20 attorneys. What he found was that Hagara’s missed promotional opportunities were not a result of any gender or pregnancy discrimination.

He also ruled that promotions Krzyminski gave to less experienced male attorneys were decided on the basis of leadership, regardless of experience.

Keller Allen, Krzyminski’s attorney, said Roberts approved McLane as the investigator before he began, and that he believed the whole process was fair and balanced.

“I think the investigation speaks pretty clearly,” he said. “Fair investigation, reasonable conclusions. But they went and filed a lawsuit before the investigation was even done.”

It’s normal policy for counties to investigate claims made in lawsuits against employees, and for those to be completed by an independent investigator. In this case, Roberts said the findings by McLane “doesn’t change anything,” and that Hagara intends to follow through with her suit.

Krzyminski has until Nov. 28 to respond.

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