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FORMER EMPLOYEE SUES OKALOOSA CLERK OF COURT

 

A woman who claims she was forced to resign for trying to protect “seven potential victims of violence” by calling out a pair of Okaloosa County judges is suing her former employer, J.D. Peacock, in his role as clerk of court and comptroller. Beth McDonald had worked for the Clerk of Court’s office for more than 18 years and had risen to middle management status before her Nov. 19 exit, the lawsuit says. She had been processing domestic violence injunctions since 2002. She claims that Peacock, as clerk, has neglected his duties by maintaining a flawed system for filing domestic violence injunctions. It alleges that he forced her resignation because she sent out an email that notified Circuit judges Terry Ketchel and John Gontarek that she had seven emergency injunctions that needed signing, including three that were a day old. “Clerks personnel are trained to treat the injunctions as emergencies because they could, quite literally, be the difference between life and death for the person seeking protection from violence,” the lawsuit states. The email angered Clerk’s Office administrators because they feared retribution from the judges,” particularly Ketchel, the lawsuit states. McDonald’s lawsuit was filed March 1 by attorney Richard Johnson, who did not return a phone call seeking comment. A motion to dismiss was filed Monday. It states that McDonald resigned after being reprimanded for “various violations of Clerk of Court’s policies” and was not subject to an “adverse personnel action” as she claims. It also calls for dismissal of McDonald’s claim that she was retaliated against as a whistle-blower.

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