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Whistleblowing Ex-GC Fighting for Reinstatement to D.C. FEMS
Former Washington, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) general counsel Theresa Cusick headed to the District of Columbia Superior Court on Tuesday, presumably to start trial and pick a jury. But the whistleblowing ex-GC and her attorneys got a summer break insteadthe case wont resume until September.
Cusick blew the whistle on FEMS in 2007 when she told a U.S. assistant attorney that an officer was under investigation for his involvement with a cheating scandal at the FEMS training academy. The GC did not think the officer could be relied on for active duty until his name was cleared. Cusick also reported inappropriate actions taken by then-assistant D.C. fire chief Brian Lee.
She was transferred from her position by D.C. fire chief Dennis Rubin shortly after, and ended up working in a temporary position within the office of the attorney general.
After she was transferred, Cusick filed suit, under the D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act. Richard Conditthe ex-GCs lawyer and legal director of the Government Accountability Projectand Cusick are fighting to have her reinstated as general counsel and to collect damages.
New information was presented to the court on Tuesday, which led to the three-month delay, said Condit. The information concerned a meeting between two members of the capital citys fire department and a high-level FEMS official, in which the official said he would like to remove Cusick as general counsel.
We were prepared to put on the trial as we knew it, said Condit after Tuesdays delay. Instead, Judge Todd Edelman granted 45 additional days for discovery so the members of the fire department could be deposed. The judge decided the information was significant and did not want the D.C. attorneys to be blindsided during the trial.
The judge did a very thoughtful job of considering how the rights of both sides would be affected by going forward or delaying the trial, Condit said.
But the case isnt only about Cusickits about other general counsel too, according to her lawyer: I think it is problematic for any attorney. How can you do your job if youre not able to express your honest opinion and assessment?
The D.C. attorney had previously tried to dismiss the case because a section of the whistleblower law had been overturned, but in August 2010, a judge ruled the case could continue.
No further delays are expected in the trial. Unless additional information comes up in the extended discovery period, Condit expects the trial to move forward at full speed in September.