The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a decision made by the United States District Court two years ago involving former county attorney secretary Sonya Parrot Akers.
Akers was terminated from her job as a secretary for the county attorney’s office in December 2007, approximately one year after she ran for public office and lost the election. Akers filed suit in federal district court claiming that her discharge violated her due process rights, her First Amendment rights and the Whistleblower Act.
According to the court document, Akers claimed that the county terminated her employment in retaliation for her campaign speech and her complaints to officials about possible election law violations.
Akers complaint was filed against judge executive Albey Brock, county attorney Neil Ward and magistrates, Coye H. Silcox, Hubert Dozier, Rick Cornett, Lonnie Maiden Jr. and Andrew Williams.
The United States District Court ruled that Akers’ employment was terminable at-will and was not entitled to due process prior to her termination. The district court found that Akers failed to show that her discharge was motivated by any of her allegedly protected speech.
Akers appealed the grant of summary judgment, arguing that the district court erred in finding that she had failed to present sufficient evidence of a causal link between her allegedly protected speech and her discharge, determining her campaign speech was “mixed speech” and adjudicating her Kentucky Whistleblower Act claims on the merits.
The court of appeals found there was substantial evidence of Akers’ poor behavior following the election, including, rudeness, unprofessionalism and abrasiveness with both the general public and her co-workers.
The court document states Akers behaved aggressively with colleagues, verbally attacked public officials in public while performing her work duties and disrupted the normal function of Ward’s duties.
According to the document, Akers’ poor behavior harmed the ability of the county attorney’s office to conduct its business and her poor behavior was a legitimate, non-retaliatory motive for her discharge.
Following her termination, Akers received 24 months probation for a misdemeanor charge of obstruction governmental operations. Akers admitted that the interference and obstruction of government records occurred on or about Jan. 3, 2008.
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted via email at email@example.com.