When a local politician wins office, she or he like to bring in their own persons for key positions. Sometimes, they also like to fire the employees who supported their opponent. County Clerks from here to Timbuktu will seek to replace you if you support the defeated opponent. But, the County Clerks who do so will be violating the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects our free speech. That free speech includes political support for one candidate or another.
County Clerk Rebecca Bolin did not get that memo. She won election as County Clerk of Kerr County and promptly fired three employees who supported the incumbent, Jannett Peiper. The new Clerk fired Julia Gaeza, Sarah Trainum, and Judith Rodgers in 2014. Ms. Bolin had been a deputy clerk herself before beating her boss. Ms. Bolin fired the three women on her first day in office. That is close timing indeed. Ms. Bolin told one of the three women, Julie Garza, that she was fired because of her Facebook post supporting the incumbent.
The employer moved for summary judgment and lost. Mag. Judge Primomo noted the timing, the three deputy clerks were fired the day the new County Clerk took office. He described Ms. Bolin’s motives as “ambiguous at best.” That is judge-speak for the employer’s evidence is weak. So, he was saying this case should be decided by a jury. The judge also noted there were no written warnings for any of the three deputy clerks. There was no history of poor performance.
The employer appealed to the Fifth Circuit regarding the denial of summary judgment. It argued that Ms. Bolin should receive qualified immunity for her actions. But, Kerr County settled while that appeal was pending. Texas counties are part of an insurance pool, Texas Association of Counties.TAC settled the case with the three women. The plaintiff’s lawyer indicated this amount replaced their lost income.
The three former deputies will receive $300,000, presumably that means $100,000 for each former deputy clerk. The lawyer mentioned that amount would replace their lost income. If they have been out of work for three years, that amount sounds about right as lost income
See San Antonio Express News report.