A former Ada County, Idaho, employee who filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging he was retaliated against and wrongly fired has been awarded $1.7 million.
Rich Wright’s attorney said a jury awarded the money to his client on March 14, The Idaho Statesman reported.
Wright had been the head of the county Department of Administration before he was fired in January 2013.
Wright claimed he was terminated by the Board of Commissioners for launching an investigation into one of his employees for harassment. Wright’s lawsuit claims the employee had been a close friend of two county commissioners.
The commissioners told Wright there were no performance issues with his work and his position was being eliminated as part of a restructuring, the lawsuit states. Wright’s position was the only job cut.
Ada County officials have said Wright’s firing was legal because he was an at-will employee who could be dismissed without cause.
A district judge in Boise initially dismissed the case, saying Wright’s claims didn’t fall under the Whistleblower Act.
But Wright appealed, and the Idaho Supreme Court sent the case back to trial court.
“This case has dominated four years of my life and to now have a unanimous verdict from the jury makes it all worth it,” Wright told the Statesman. “I stood up for what was right and I hope this sends a clear message to all public employees that they have rights.”