Wednesday, July 31, 2019

What Happened


Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s classic novel Good Omens is the story of how the Apocalypse gets derailed when the Spawn of Satan is accidentally switched at birth. Instead of being raised surrounded by demonic power, he grows up in an idyllic English village. 

The new Amazon TV series is fun and true to the book, with David Tennant playing the ambivalent demon Crowley, and Michael Shannon playing the fussy angel Aziraphale. Frances McDormand provides the omniscient voiceover narration, including the following revelation:

“It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.”


Other than arriving at the end to handle the appeal, the best litigation tasks come at the very beginning of a case, when you sit alone in a room and examine boxes of freshly gathered documents. I wrote last year in “Mapping Mistakes”:

As you learn about the case, you get to orient yourself in a whole new area of law:  Subsurface water rights! Adjoining property owner obligations! You figure out the cast of characters:  Owner! Contractor! Subcontractor! Architect! Structural Engineer! Geo-engineer! You read emails, contacts, letters, even maps. It’s like someone dumped out several boxes of puzzle pieces from multiple abstract pictures, with lots of pieces missing, and started a stopwatch. Fun.  

I’ve always enjoyed complex mental challenges. But my recent experience with PTSD has revealed another reason for my attraction to this early phase in contrast to other stages of litigation. When I pore through raw case files, I want to learn what actually happened – not just to assess what the admissible evidence is likely to show at trial, or how I might be able to plausibly spin some random scrap of paper to score a rhetorical point. Client wishes, confirmation bias, or other filters will eventually cloud my vision and values. For now, let me sort through puzzle pieces and indulge my innocent thirst for the truth.

What I didn’t mention was that that my favourite part of this initial puzzle phase comes when you've finished going through the last box of documents. Now you get to make your best guess about whatever seems to be missing from the picture.

Pivoting to a less lawyerly version of the same metaphor: When I handed off the kids to my ex and returned to my parents’ house this week, I saw my mother had completed a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The theme: “Broadway Musicals.” Luckily I happen to be a Broadway expert.

Even with every puzzle piece in place, Mom still had questions for me. Who’s in the picture? What does it mean? I had the opportunity to demonstrate my “issue spotting” skills to my mother, by explaining the difference between Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber. 

So here are my current Top 10 unanswered questions about the story of "Roger and the Attorney General's Office," together with my best guess for each question based on the puzzle pieces we've seen so far.



Top 10 questions someone should ask after reading the emails and other documents produced by the Attorney General’s Office:


1.      Why did the Attorney General’s Office expand the scope of their investigator’s assignment beyond my complaint of discrimination based on sexual orientation?

In January 2016, I found out I was the only lawyer at the Attorney General’s Office who hadn’t received a raise – because of my supervisor’s homophobic criticism. I was already frustrated by the office’s closety atmosphere and implicit bias, but this was too much. Following the office’s antidiscrimination policy, I submitted a written complaint of sexual orientation discrimination on March 2, 2016.

Several years before, the government conducted a competitive bidding process to create a statewide pool of vendors who are authorized to provide personnel services to state and local government agencies. The Attorney General’s Office decided to assign the investigation into my sexual orientation discrimination complaint to an outside private investigator from one of the firms covered by a Master Contract with the State. 

After reviewing files that my employers eventually produced under the Public Records Act, I now know my supervisors decided to rid of me months before I filed my discrimination complaint. I can imagine the meeting where someone used the phrase “two birds with one stone.”   

Were the lawyers at the Attorney General’s Office always planning to bring in an outside investigator to finish me off with a faux-independent hatchet job? Or did they intend to fire me based solely on their own internal criticisms – but couldn’t resist the opportunity presented by the hiring of an investigator to examine my (ultimately ignored) sexual orientation discrimination complaint? 

I’d have to flip a coin on this one. 


2.    When was the scope of the investigation expanded?

That’s a trick question. The authorized scope of the investigation never expanded.

Yes, we know from the investigator’s March 16, 2016 email exchange with the State's top employment lawyers that they asked him to look into supervisor complaints about my conduct. Their “meeting of the minds” about the true scope of the investigation presumably occurred during two lawyers’ initial conference call with their investigator, on March 11, 2016.

However, none of the attorneys on the conference call had the authority to alter the contract between the State and the private investigation firm – and the Master Contract and Work Order only authorized an investigation into my complaint of discrimination based on sexual orientation. 


3.    Before it was too late, why didn’t the lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office tell me that they’d expanded the scope of their investigator’s assignment to include supervisor complaints about my conduct ?

Another trick question. (No, not just because they couldn’t change the contractually authorized scope of the investigation without first amending the Work Order.) To this day, lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office hem and haw about what they disclosed, and whether the Final Investigation Report involves anything other than my sexual orientation discrimination complaint. They’ve never been willing to publicly admit any wrongdoing whatsoever in the saga of “Roger and the Attorney General’s Office."

The real reason No. 3 is a trick question:  It’s never too late to admit you made a mistake. Even years later. 

As I recently explained in “Issue Spotting,” law school and bar exams used to be ruthless. Traditionally, each law school course ended with an all-or-nothing final exam consisting of one or more overstuffed “fact patterns.” For example, the story might begin “Alice was driving a car. Her wife Betty was in the front passenger seat without wearing the seatbelt, and her boss Chris was in a backseat without seatbelts. Suddenly Alice rear-ended an ice cream truck driven by Dagwood….”). Issue-spotting is such a vital legal skill that it’s still the heart of every bar exam.

The problem with an issue spotting error is that it keeps amplifying itself again and again. In this case, the two lawyers didn’t realize they’d made at least one erroneous assumption at the time they told their investigator to secretly expand the scope of the investigation beyond my complaint of sexual orientation discrimination. As a result, they repeated and exacerbated their mistake every time they had another opportunity to tell the truth yet failed to do so.

On a law school or bar exam answer, it only takes one good reason to make it worth identifying an issue for the ravenous examiners. Such as the fact that a secret conference call can’t change the scope of a Work Order issued under the Master Contract between the State and a vendor – particularly key contract terms like the scope of the work. Or that it's fundamentally unfair to fire someone based on  preposterous secret hearsay complaints, without first giving him an opportunity to respond.

Here’s another easily spottable issue:  When the State’s top employment lawyers briefed their investigator on the scope of his assignment, they knew I’d already disclosed a disability and asked my employer for a reasonable accommodation. In fact, the fourth participant in their initial conference call and subsequent email exchange was the same human resources specialist who coordinated my initial disability accommodation request. Obviously someone should have paid better attention to the relationship between their investigation and my disability. 

So far we’ve merely spotted legal malpractice and other tort issues. They added ethical issues a couple of weeks later, after I hired a Seattle employment attorney who attempted to communicate with my employers on my behalf.

Based on what I’ve learned from the documents and my experiences with the Washington Attorney General’s Office, what's my guess for why two of the State’s top employment attorneys nevertheless failed to tell me they'd expanded their investigation?

Labor & Employment Division Chief Shane Esquibel probably didn’t spot these legal and ethical issues at the time for a simple reason: he was distracted. I suspect he wasn’t paying close attention to his emails or to the details of my employment dispute. Or carefully supervising his subordinate. In a tragically ironic coincidence, this happened to be the month Mr. Esquibel was promoted to serve as Bob Ferguson’s top lieutenant – the Chief Deputy Attorney General.

Like her boss, Assistant Attorney General Kari Hanson is an experienced employment attorney. As far as I know, I've never met her. But I can tell from her emails she holds the title “Senior Counsel,” which is the Attorney General’s Office’s highest non-manager designation for lawyers. My speculative theory: Ms. Hanson has worked in the office so long her issue-spotting skills have atrophied.

Runner-up guess: After Mr. Esquibel's dazzling promotion, Ms. Hanson didn't have the nerve to question her boss.

Or maybe Mr. Esquibel and Ms. Hansen are the kind of people who think there’s nothing wrong with sandbagging a colleague who isn’t fitting in.


4.    Why didn’t the Attorney General's Office take my disability seriously before I hired a lawyer?

As I’ve written before, society still has a long way to go before we achieve the Americans With Disabilities Act’s promise of justice and inclusion for people living with disabilities. We all have blind spots. 

There were folks at the Attorney General’s Office, like the Bellingham Section Chief, who knew about my disability but simply passed the buck. Others were probably entertained by my flailing attempts at advocating for myself without the benefit of an experienced disability attorney.

Some colleagues apparently assumed my PTSD diagnosis was something I’d manufactured in response to complaints about my performances. After reading numerous disability cases, I now know this is a common phenomenon. No doubt there are employees making claims regarding their mental health that indeed are post hoc rationalizations enabled by sleazy medical providers. But as a society we should be much more concerned about the pattern of ignorance and hostility on the part of dismissive employers and judges.

Other lawyers at the Attorney General’s Office weren’t paying enough attention to spot the disability issues. Or their thinking was too constrained by confirmation biasIt’s hard for employers to consider potential disability accommodations when they’re trapped in a “this employee is a bad fit” narrative. In the end, Mr. Esquibel and Ms. Hanson probably overlooked important legal and ethical issues because I was merely a disabled co-worker suffering from anxiety and PTSD. 

As the nuns ask in God’s favorite musical (according to Good Omens): “How do we solve a problem like Roger?” Kick him out of the abbey.


5.    Why did the Attorney General’s Office ignore my employment attorney?

When I hired Seattle employment attorney Sean Phelan in March 2016, I gave her the contact information for Regional Services Division Chief Michael Shinn, the Attorney General’s Office representative who delivered my performance evaluation and who took away my office keys earlier that month. After leaving messages for Mr. Shinn, my attorney received a call back on March 29, 2016 from Ms. Hanson, who identified herself as the employment attorney representing the State. 

Others at the Attorney General’s Office also were aware of Ms. Phelan’s engagement – including lawyers both within the Regional Services Division where I worked, as well as within the specialized Labor & Employment Division where Ms. Hanson and the State's other employment lawyers worked.

As I’ve written elsewhere, for the next six weeks my attorney attempted to engage in a dialogue with my employers about my disability, the status of my employment, and my supervisor's alleged performance concerns. Meanwhile, despite Ms. Hanson’s repeated delays, my attorney was also busy working on my case, including obtaining a psychiatrist’s evaluation of my disability and its relationship to my interactions with colleagues.

Even as she avoided my attorney, Ms. Hanson found time to work on my case. She coordinated her investigator’s interviews of multiple witnesses, including myself; regularly communicated with the investigator about his progress; and helped gather numerous files documenting my colleagues’ secret complaints about my performance.1

1Tellingly, during the same timeframe Ms. Hanson and her colleagues disregarded the investigator’s lone request for a copy of just one of the many documents I’d identified regarding explicit and implicit homophobia at the Attorney General's Office – the actual subject of the investigation. 

So what happened? We remember Good Omen's lesson that most stuff in life is caused by people being fundamentally people. Or Hanlon’s razor:  “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

Each of the gaggle of government lawyers who knew know I’d hired an employment attorney assumed Ms. Hanson was handling my case for them. Meanwhile, Ms. Hanson was no doubt busy with numerous pressing employment matters for other state agencies. She apparently gave minimal attention to my case beyond ensuring the investigation proceeded as directed by Mr. Esquibel and herself. And she didn’t get around to responding to my lawyer – until she realized she'd waited too long.

There may be more smoking gun emails out there that I haven’t seen, or an honest public servant whistleblower may eventually come forward with more damning information about my former colleagues' conduct. Until then, the most reasonable hypothesis is that for five weeks, no one at the Attorney General’s Office paid attention to my attorney’s arrival. 

Then they suddenly went into coverup mode, and stayed there.


6.  Did Assistant Attorney General Kari Hanson violate Rule of Professional Conduct 4.2?

Yes.

In Washington, lawyer misconduct must be established by a clear preponderance of the evidence. [Ed. Note: Click here for a timeline describing the relevant events in Spring 2016, including copies of emails and other documents produced by the Attorney General's Office under Washington's robust Public Records Act.]

The essential facts are undisputed:

[1] Hanson represented a client – my employer the Attorney General’s Office – in our employment dispute.

[2] Hanson communicated with me through her investigator on multiple occasions, including a one-on-one interview with the investigator on April 14, as well as email exchanges of documents. 

       Under RPC 8.2(a), a lawyer may not “violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another.”

       In particular, Ms. Hanson knew in advance that I was meeting with the investigator on April 14. As one of the participants in the March 11, 2016 conference call regarding the scope of the investigation, Ms. Hanson obviously knew the specific subject areas she and Mr. Esquibel asked him to interrogate me about.  

[3] These communications through the investigator were about the subject of my representation by Ms. Phelan. The Final Investigation Report, the interview notes, and the emailed documents all involve the same employment disputes Ms. Phelan spent six weeks futilely attempting to discuss with Ms. Hanson. These ex parte communications were not limited to my complaint of discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

[4] Ms. Hanson knew I was represented by counsel. She spoke with my lawyer by telephone on March 29, 2016, and received multiple additional communications from Ms. Phelan over the next six weeks.  

[5] My lawyer did not consent to any ex parte communications regarding the subject of her representation.

[6] No court order or law authorized Ms. Hanson to disregard her ethical duties under the Rules of Professional Conduct. To the contrary, just this month the Washington Supreme Court reiterated that lawyer ethics rules apply to in-house attorneys. Karstetter v. King County Corr. Guild (Wash. 7/18/19).


7.    When did the attorneys at the Attorney General’s Office finally change course?

I could play cute and call this a trick question, since we still haven't seen any real change in my former employers' approach. But there was indeed a pivotal moment when Mr. Esquibel and other attorneys besides Ms. Hanson finally paid attention to the fact that I'd hired an employment lawyer in March 2016.

On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, more than five weeks after first contacting my employers, my attorney sent yet another message to Ms. Hanson regarding the reasonable accommodation process, including the fact that I was in the process of submitting a psychiatric evaluation report regarding my disability: 

From: Sean Phelan [mailto:sphelan@frankfreed.com] 
Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2016 4:08 PM 
To: Hanson, Kari (ATG) Cc: Sean Phelan
Subject: Roger Leischman 

Hi Kari,

I am following up on the voice message I left for you yesterday regarding this matter. 
Mr. Leischman has recently been evaluated by a psychiatrist with regard to his medical condition and its impact on his ability to perform his job – and specifically its impact on his interactions with others in the workplace.
Could you please send me another accommodation assessment form to send to the psychiatrist to complete?
Thanks in advance. 
Please call with any questions. Sincerely,

Ms. Sean M. Phelan
Frank Freed Subit & Thomas LLP

Regardless of Ms. Hanson’s repeated failure to spot key legal issues, by this point my lawyer explicitly laid it all out for her:  Ms. Phelan represented a disabled employee who was attempting to engage his employer in the interactive reasonable accommodation process, and who was prepared to prove that his supervisors’ supposed “performance” concerns were directly related to his disability. 

Meanwhile, Ms. Hanson – unlike my lawyer and me – also knew that her investigator had just completed a report regarding the same subject matter, that was based at least in part on unauthorized ex parte communications.

The next morning Ms. Hanson finally responded to my attorney’s repeated inquiries. Rather than provide a substantive answer, Ms. Hanson instead suggested they confer the following week:

From: Hanson, Kari (ATG) 
Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2016 8:48 AM
To: Sean Phelan
Subject: RE: Roger Leischman 

Hi Sean. I am really sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I’ve been swamped this week. The report was just finalized and the manager who needs to review it has been travelling all week, so she has not had a chance to see it yet. Would it be possible for you and I to talk early next week? Thanks for your patience.

My lawyer immediately agreed to accommodate the Attorney General’s Office’s purported scheduling issues, and asked Ms. Hanson to propose a specific time to confer the following Monday or Tuesday. A few minutes later, Ms. Hanson forwarded a copy of her email exchange to several senior lawyers in the Attorney General’s Office, including Mr. Esquibel. 

These lawyers were already reviewing the investigator’s final report. Even if Ms. Hanson had previously kept them out of the loop, by Wednesday, May 4, 2016, Mr. Esquibel and his colleagues knew I was represented by an experienced employment lawyer who was attempting to engage in a dialogue about the same disability issues that they’d secretly asked their investigator to interrogate me about. They also knew they were in the process of firing me based on his ill-gotten report.  

I’d like to tell you the lawyers at the Attorney General’s Office changed course at this point in a positive direction – that they called a time-out on the investigation, and began a good faith dialogue about my disability with my attorney the following week. But as Lemony Snickett would say, this isn’t that kind of story.

Instead, the next day I got a call from human resources asking me to come to the Attorney General’s Seattle office on Monday morning. When my lawyer and I arrived, we were handed two documents:  a copy of the investigator’s report, and a letter terminating my employment. There was zero discussion.

Ms. Hanson’s brush-off tactics worked:  my lawyer never did get a chance to meet with her.


8.    What did Chief Deputy Attorney General Esquibel know about the RPC 4.2 violation, and when did he know about it?

According to his lawyers, Mr. Esquibel doesn’t recall knowing about the investigator’s ex parte interrogation when it occurred in April 2016. I believe him. Mr. Esquibel was busy in his new position, and apparently he no longer received a copy of every email about my case. 

On the other hand, being out of the loop doesn’t absolve the Chief Deputy Attorney General of his professional responsibilities. The Washington Supreme Court has adopted various comments that illuminate the scope of Rule 4.2. For example, Comment 4 states that “A lawyer may not make a communication prohibited by this Rule through the acts of another.” Comment 8 requires the lawyer to have “actual knowledge of the fact of the representation; but such actual knowledge may be inferred from the circumstances.” According to the Court, a “lawyer cannot evade the requirement of obtaining the consent of another lawyer by closing eyes to the obvious.”

I don’t know when someone told Mr. Esquibel that I’d hired an employment attorney. We do know Mr. Esquibel was copied on Ms. Hanson’s email exchange with my lawyer on May 4, 2016. In any event, because he knew the true scope of investigation, Mr. Esquibel knew the nature of the issues their investigator would cover in any interviews with the claimant, namely me. If Mr. Esquibel communicated with Ms. Hanson or others about the investigation or about my employment status at any time after March 29, he knew or should have known I was represented by counsel. As with Ms. Hanson, the undisputed factual record establishes a direct violation of RPC 4.2.

On May 9, 2016, the Attorney General’s Office terminated my employment, based on the investigation directed by Mr. Esquibel and Ms. Hanson. The first page of the final report explicitly states that the investigator relied on ex parte communications with me about the subject of my representation that occurred during the period when Ms. Phelan was my attorney. Even from his exalted vantage point as Chief Deputy Attorney General, at some point in May 2016, Shane Esquibel should have known that by thoughtlessly expanding the scope of the personnel investigation, he caused a cascade of serious ethical and legal mistakes.


9.    What did Chief Deputy Attorney General Shane Esquibel do to mitigate the harm caused by his subordinate’s violation of RPC 4.2?

In addition to his own direct personality responsibility for his investigator’s unauthorized ex parte communications, Mr. Esquibel also had separate ethical duties as Mr. Hanson’s boss. RPC 5.1(c) provides “a lawyer shall be responsible for another lawyer’s violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if:

 (1)  the lawyer orders or, with knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or

(2)  the lawyer is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the other lawyer practices, or has direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.

The Attorney General’s Office terminated my employment effective June 1, 2016. My family’s health insurance benefits ended on June 30, 3016.

On May 31, 2016, my attorney sent Ms. Hanson a detailed letter and settlement offer explaining how the agency’s conduct had exposed the State to substantial liability for disability discrimination. On June 3, 2016, Ms. Hanson forwarded a copy of my lawyer’s letter to Mr. Esquibel and to three other Deputy Attorneys General. According to documents the Attorney General’s Office recently produced under the Public Records Act, Mr. Esquibel immediately scheduled a high-level meeting to discuss my case. 

We can therefore nail down one important timing issue. No later than June 3, 2016, Mr. Esquibel and other very senior lawyers at the Attorney General’s Office all knew I was represented by a Seattle disability employment attorney named Sean Phelan, and they knew exactly what she had been trying to tell them about the story of “Roger and the Attorney General’s Office”:  that the State’s top employment attorneys wrongfully terminated me, after following what any honest lawyer with access to all the facts knew was an abusive, fraudulent, and unethical process.

What did Chief Deputy Attorney General Shane Esquibel do to mitigate the harm caused by his subordinate’s violation of RPC 4.2? Nothing

To the contrary, Mr. Esquibel aggravated the injuries to my family. The Attorney General’s Office went forward with my wrongful termination. Mr. Esquibel and his colleagues never informed my attorney or me that they’d mishandled their investigator’s assignment. Despite repeated requests, they never provided copies of the secret performance complaints their investigator relied on. The lawyers at the Attorney General’s Office stood by when the State miscalculated the COBRA deadline and wrongfully terminated my family’s health insurance. They didn’t even respond to my lawyer’s May 31, 2016 settlement letter. Instead, they stalled for months. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Esquibel chaired multiple high-level meetings about my case during Summer and Fall 2016. The Attorney General’s Office refuses to produce any documents related to those meetings, claiming they’re protected by attorney-client privilege. No doubt those meetings were devoted to scheming about how to reduce their employer’s liability exposure  rather than attempting to mitigate the harms they’d caused to a disabled employee by denying him the benefit of an attorney when it really mattered.


10.    When the lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office piggy-backed their job performance complaints onto my sexual orientation discrimination complaint, were they merely attempting to save money?

This is a follow up to question No. 1, which asked why the Attorney General’s Office expanded the scope of their investigator’s assignment beyond my complaint of discrimination based on sexual orientation.  

On March 11, 2016, Chief Deputy Attorney General Shane Esquibel and Assistant Attorney General Kari Hanson asked their investigator to examine separate supervisor criticisms of my workplace conduct, instead of focusing on my complaint about discrimination based on sexual orientation, the assignment referred to in the Work Order. At the time, were they thinking about money?

So far the documentary record is silent on this question. None of the participants in conference call have testified yet. You and I must rely on mind reading, which presents certain technical challenges. 

As Daniel Kahneman observes, we all maintain “intuitive feelings and opinions” about the important things we encounter. Human brains are designed to make leaps. Virtual mind reading requires a huge cognitive leap, no matter how many smoldering smoking-gun emails you smell. Nevertheless, as Kahneman argues in Thinking, Fast and Slow, human brains are capable of successfully making that leap – because we’ve developed the capacity to imagine what another person might be thinking. It’s the same aspect of Theory of Mind that gives us empathy.

Before we reveal our Final Jeopardy guesses for this last crass question, I will share something else I learned from sifting through documents from the Attorney General's Office.

When approached about looking into an employee complaint of sexual orientation discrimination, the private investigation firm suggested a $10,000 budget for that assignment. However, in order to attract the State’s business, the firm agreed to do the job for less. The contractual Work Order authorized up to 29 hours of the investigator’s time, with a $7,975 cap on total fees. 

Then the lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office expanded the assignment to cover separate supervisor complaints. Unsurprisingly, the investigator quickly blew through the budgeted amount. Midway through the project, client representatives assured him he'd be paid for his full $10,000 estimate, and the investigator agreed to cap his fees at that amount.

Several weeks after the investigator submitted his report, the State retroactively amended the Work Order. The amendment did not change the scope of the contractual assignment, the deliverables, or their due dates. To the contrary, the Amendment stated the additional payment only covered services within the scope of "the original Work Order." Under the State’s formal contracting process, the Amendment was justified on the grounds that the "document review and analysis, witness interviews and report writing required more time than originally budgeted." 

However, the investigator actually spent $17,463 in billable time on his expanded assignment, more than twice the original payment amount. His firm had to write off the balance as uncollectible. 

So if your answer to the money question was “Yes, the State’s top employment lawyers were thinking about saving money when they made their fateful mistake,” you recognize how the Attorney General does business:  Stiff your vendors, screw over your employees, then bully and brazen your way through the legal system.

Hey, that’s the same way Donald Trump became a “billionaire.”


The lawyers representing the Attorney General’s Office never responded to my disability attorney's May 31, 2016 letter and settlement offer. Instead, they repeatedly delayed answering. For months. At the same time, I was enduring immense stress. My family lost its health insurance when the State miscalculated the statutory COBRA deadline. I’d been isolated at home since March. I exhausted my savings. As I wrote in "Pandora's Box," my anxiety and PTSD symptoms spiked. In Fall 2016, I became suicidally depressed for the first time in thirty years. 

We finally mediated my wrongful termination claims in October 2016. The State and I reached agreement on the terms of a Settlement Agreement and Release. I have no reservations regarding my attorney’s performance, and no complaints about the mediator’s efforts. But I’m sure both the mediator and my lawyer would agree State would have been forced to take my claims much more seriously if we’d known before the mediation what the lawyers at the Attorney General’s Office already knew about their colleagues’ professional misconduct.

Instead, despite some major obstacles, I finally tracked down the facts this year. What happened is described in my blog essays this month, and established with documents produced under the Public Records Act:  

Repeated failures to take disabilities seriously.

Incompetence, defensiveness, and dishonesty at the Attorney General’s Office. 

Plus some horrendously bad luck. And a lot of people being people.