A former assistant attorney general who was fired for allegedly giving “incorrect” advice to the state Workers’ Compensation Commission about the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act has filed a $175,000 wrongful termination claim against the state.
“The extreme and outrageous manner of my termination, coupled with the negative press publicity, has caused me extreme mental anguish and emotional distress, for which I should be compensated,” former Assistant Attorney General Ted Rossier said in claim filed Thursday with the State Office of Risk Management.
The attorney general’s office declined comment Thursday.
“We just received the claim and are reviewing it,” said agency spokesman Aaron Cooper. “We have no comment at this time.”
Fired or resigned?
Previous statements released by the attorney general’s office were vague about whether Rossier was fired or resigned. Rossier said Thursday that he was terminated.
“On July 30, 2014, I was terminated involuntarily from my position as an assistant attorney general. No reason or warning was given for my termination. I was provided no documentation,” he stated in his claim. “I was escorted out of the building by two armed agents and not permitted to return to my office to retrieve my personal effects.” Rossier said his personal items were returned two days later.
Rossier said his performance evaluations had been excellent up to the time he was terminated and that he previously had never been disciplined.
He claims that he was a victim of sex discrimination, his character was defamed, he was placed in a false light before the public and he was denied due process.
“As a male employee, I was subjected to much harsher treatment than similarly situated female employees for the same or similar conduct,” Rossier stated.
He cited three examples of female employees he believes received more favorable treatment:
In the claim, he describes a 2012 case where a female attorney gave advice to the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding the termination of a nurse.
“This advice turned out to be incorrect, and negative media attention resulted,” he said, adding, the attorney was not fired.
Citing another example, he said another female attorney “committed violations of federal court discovery rules during litigation of an employment matter.”
“Those violations could have resulted in sanctions being ordered against the attorney general,” Rossier said, adding he doesn’t believe the woman was disciplined.
Rossier said a former supervisor told workers’ compensation commissioners during a training session that they might be able to “take advantage of exceptions to the Open Meeting Act,” but said she was not disciplined or terminated.
Rossier claims his dismissal was linked to him advising workers’ compensation officials to publicly release an informal advice memo he had given a commissioner regarding commission hiring practices.
“I was therefore terminated for complying with the Oklahoma Open Records Act,” he said. “A failure of compliance on my part could have resulted in criminal charges being brought against me.”
Rossier accuses Commission Chairman Troy Wilson and executive director Rick Farmer of providing “false information about me to the Office of Attorney General and to the press.”
Rossier is asking the state for $175,000, a statement from the attorney general and commission “absolving me of any wrongdoing,” rescission of his involuntary discharge, adjustment of his personnel file to reflect separation by mutual agreement and a neutral job reference.
The filing of the claim is the first step in what could later become a lawsuit, Rossier indicated.
In addition to the tort claim, Rossier filed an expansive Open Records Act request with the commission Thursday.
Among other things, Rossier is asking for copies of personal calendars of all the commissioners and the executive director.
He also wants several categories of electronic mail communications involving the chairman and the executive director for the months of May, June and July.
“I’m requesting the documents because I believe that discussions about my work and my employment took place without my knowledge, in a deliberate attempt to prevent me from defending myself,” Rossier told The Oklahoman.