Tina Stillwell vs Garberville Sanitary District: Civil Suit Filed Monday Alleging Plaintiff Was Fired for Bringing Attention to Misconduct by the General Manager
On Monday, Tina Stillwell, a former employee of the Garberville Services District, filed a lawsuit against the District alleging that she was fired because she blew the whistle on misconduct by the General Manager, Ralph Emerson. Stillwell alleges in the suit that Ralph Emerson retaliated by firing her within months of her providing information to an outside auditor.
In a story we published in May of last year, Kelley Lincoln, our reporter, noted the auditor “discovered the General Manager holds several positions at three other districts. Since this District employs him full time, there should be some accountability for the time he spends at his outside employment.”
The auditor also noted that Emerson used the Garberville Services District’s credit to “purchase a tool for another district. Although this tool was replaced, it is a major internal control concern.”
According to the Stillwell’s lawsuit, Stillwell was the one who informed the auditor of the issues. She alleges that Emerson retaliated within months and terminated her employment. In a story we posted in September, Stillwell and her attorneys, one of which, Herb Schwartz, was a former Garberville Services District Board Chair, sent a letter to the Board of Directors offering “pre-litigation mediation to the District in an effort to bring about a speedy and cost effective resolution.”
Now a suit has been filed and Schwartz, in an email sent to multiple people including several reporters and Supervisor Estelle Fennell, states that he is concerned at how long the case could drag on as “criminal cases preempt civil cases all the time.” In addition, Schwarz alleges that Humboldt County’s “lack of internet access to our [court] files is medieval” and is especially burdensome on those who live in outlying areas who must travel to Eureka in order to read court cases.
However, Schwartz provided the file in the email and we’ve provided access to it below. For those unfamiliar with court language, Stillwell is the plaintiff, the Garberville Service District and Ralph Emerson among others are the defendants in this case. The section, General Allegations, on page 3 of the pdf below, provides the basic story as told from the point of view of Stillwell and her attorneys.
Please remember the following information has not been proven in a court of law but are only the allegations of one side in the case.
In September when we requested more information from the Board, they strongly denied the allegations by Stillwell. However, they also stated, “…no additional comment will follow at this time as this is a pending and/or threatened litigation matter involving District personnel determinations.”
Below is the lawsuit. Please give the pdfsome time to load.Stillwell 1 v GSD 3.5.18