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Fired state ethics whistle-blower fights back

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in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

Amanda Thaxton, a former office assistant at the North Carolina State Ethics Commission, has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit claiming she was fired in retaliation for speaking with the State Auditor’s Office about possible protocol violations.

Thaxton reportedly noted in an electronic log that Will Polk, general counsel to Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, reviewed Perdue’s financial disclosure documents in a private room. Such reviews usually happen in a public conference room, often under staff supervision. Kathleen Edwards, an assistant ethics commission director, later deleted Thaxton’s electronic notation. Edwards said it didn’t belong in the log.

Thaxton was fired just hours after the News & Observer inquired about the log entry.

Thaxton said she was given no reason for the firing. She spoke several times before and after her termination to officials in the Auditor’s Office and the State Personnel Office about a hostile environment in the commission, her lawsuit says. She seeks immediate reinstatement and triple monetary damages, in accordance with state whistle-blower statutes.

Thaxton’s suit follows a lawsuit filed in Wake County Superior Court by the State Ethics Commission seeking to bar State Auditor Les Merritt from looking into the matter.

Note: When it comes to retaliation charges, timing really is everything. The fact that the commission fired Thaxton within hours of the media inquiry into her log entry will be a tough hurdle for the defense to overcome in court.

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