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Judge Denton's ruling in favor of Rodger Hartnett against San Diego County Officials Lora Duzyk and Diane Crosier has been upheld by the California Court of Appeal. Hartnett complained that Crosier bypassed other attorneys on the SDCOE-JPA's defense panel to give about a million dollars of work each year to Daniel Shinoff's lawfirm.
Education officials still in lawsuit
Ruling backs up whistle-blower
By Jeff McDonald
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
October 3, 2009
...Former claims coordinator Rodger Hartnett alleges that administrators Lora Duzyk and Michele Fort-Merrill fired him for sounding an alarm about office corruption...
The ruling orders [Lora] Duzyk and [Michelle] Fort-Merrill to pay Hartnett's legal bills for the appeal.
Duzyk is the assistant superintendent for business services and Fort-Merill supervises the human resources department at the Office of Education, which operates as a kind of umbrella agency providing a variety of services for dozens of school districts in San Diego, Riverside and Imperial counties.
Hartnett sued the office, the two administrators and other employees, claiming he was fired in 2007 after questioning billing practices.
COURT OF APPEAL, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION ONE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
RODGER J. HARTNETT, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. LORA DUZYK et al., Defendants and Appellants.
APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Steven R. Denton, Judge. Affirmed.
Rodger Hartnett sued his former employer, the San Diego County Office of Education and its superintendent Dr. Randolph Ward (collectively SDCOE), and several SDCOE employees. Two of those employees, Lora Duzyk and Michele Fort-Merrill, moved to strike the claims against them under the anti-SLAPP statute.
...Duzyk argues this case is "exactly" the same as Dible because Hartnett sued her because she informed Hartnett's employer of the " 'cause' for plaintiff's termination." The argument is not factually supported...
Fort-Merrill also relies on Dible, arguing that Hartnett was similarly attempting to rely on appellants' bad motives to show the case falls outside of the anti-SLAPP statute's protection...Fort-Merrill sent written communications to Hartnett pertaining to the hearing procedures, these communications did not trigger anti-SLAPP protection because the lawsuit is not based on these documents.
Finally, appellants devote a substantial portion of their appellate briefs to challenging various statements made by the trial court during the hearing on the anti-SLAPP motion. We do not reach these arguments because we apply a de novo review
standard...In conducting an independent review, we examine the correctness of the court's ruling, and not its rationale...
If appellants believe the allegations are unsupported, they are free to bring a dispositive motion such as a summary judgment motion or a motion for judgment on the pleadings.