Fired Minot city attorney files federal lawsuit over alleged violations of her privacy

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MINOT, North Dakota — Minot's former city attorney who was fired last spring has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the city, its attorneys and two credit reporting agencies violated her privacy by not properly protecting her personal credit report.

Colleen Auer is seeking $1,000 in damages for each violation of federal credit law, along with other unspecified damages.

"That is very sensitive, personal information and people can misuse it, and in my view that's exactly what happened here," Auer told KXMC-TV. "And I see it as just a continuation of the city's retaliatory conduct, and sort of an intimidation tactic."

The Bismarck law firm representing Minot — Smith, Bakke, Porsborg, Schweigert and Armstrong — has not yet responded to the lawsuit Auer filed Oct. 7 but said earlier that she signed an authorization form allowing a credit history search and that her privacy was not violated, according to the Minot Daily News.

Auer was fired May 2 after only about a month on the job for alleged insubordination. She earlier filed grievances with the state Labor Department and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for alleged harassment and wrongful termination, asking to be reinstated.

She also has filed a whistleblower complaint with the Labor Department alleging she was fired for refusing to follow orders that she believed broke the law. Auer claims she was asked to do unlawful things regarding contracts and documents and was fired and publicly humiliated when she refused.

The city has not commented on any of Auer's actions, citing the possibility of litigation. However, the City Council earlier ruled that Auer's allegations of harassment by City Manager Cindy Hemphill were unfounded, and Hemphill has denied any animosity toward Auer.

Auer also has filed a complaint with the North Dakota Attorney General's Office over a $2,995 bill from the city for researching her open records requests, according to the Minot Daily News.

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