From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 45 - February 5, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Former dispatcher sues SCSO, Sublette County for wrongful termination

by Janet Montgomery

Sublette County Commissioners were served Tuesday afternoon with a complaint and demand for a jury trial by Donna Ecklund. She filed a complaint Friday alleging wrongful termination as a Sublette County Sheriff's Office dispatcher.

According to the documents, Ecklund filed the wrongful termination suit against Sublette County and the SCSO after being informed on April 16, 2003, that a stalking complaint had been made against her by a fellow co-worker and her employment as a dispatcher was terminated.

Sublette County commissioners denied Ecklund's claim for wrongful termination that she filed on June 30, 2003, according to previous reports.

Sublette County Sheriff Hank Ruland said on July 2, "The allegations are false, and we will vigorously fight them."

Ecklund's claims in the June notice, and now in the suit, involve breach of employment contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation.

Tuesday, Sublette County Attorney Van Graham said, "The county will turn it over to the insurance company, and the insurance company will likely hire somebody to defend the county."

Ecklund's attorney, Gary Shockey of Spence, Moriarity and Shockey, filed the suit in the Ninth Judicial District Court within the one year of filing the claim that the commissioners denied.

While an amount was not listed in the court documents, damages incurred include emotional damages, past and future embarrassment and humiliation, damage to reputation, damage to profession, loss of past and foreseeable income, loss of earning capacity, loss of value of employment benefits, as well as exemplary and punitive damages, according to the suit.

In previous reports, $1 million for compensatory damages was suggested, plus other amounts.

Shockey was out of town and not available for comment or further information about the suit.

The suit claims that Ecklund, who had been employed by SCSO over two periods of time from June 1987 to August 1991 and December 1995 to April 2003, became concerned with the conduct of certain employees and how their conduct was interfering with the operations of the dispatch department. Ecklund claims to have voiced these concerns to supervisors and the communication administrator Rick Hubbard who, according to the suit, responded by stating that complaints and accusations of employee misconduct must be documented.

According to the suit, on or about April 16, 2003, during Ecklund's dispatch shift, Hubbard directed Ecklund to the courthouse jury room, where a tape recording of two telephone conversations between Ecklund and another SCSO employee was played. The subject of the telephone conversations pertained to the conduct and actions of a fellow employee, Kati Richins. Ruland, Undersheriff Henry Schmidt and Lieutenant Wayne Bardin subsequently entered the room while the tape was being played.

Ruland informed Ecklund of a stalking complaint that had been made against her by Richins. He then terminated Ecklund's employment, according the suit.

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