Verdict: Jury finds no discrimination against former assistant U.S. attorney

2013-12-12T15:15:00Z 2014-12-22T16:10:12Z Verdict: Jury finds no discrimination against former assistant U.S. attorneyNICK HYTREK nhytrek@siouxcityjournal.com Sioux City Journal
December 12, 2013 3:15 pm  • 

SIOUX CITY | Eight jurors and a federal judge all agreed: There was no discrimination or retaliation behind the discipline and firing of former assistant U.S. Attorney Martha Fagg.

After nearly five hours of deliberations Thursday, the jury found that former U.S. Attorney Stephanie Rose and her top assistant, Teresa Baumann, did not discriminate against Fagg during a series of disciplinary actions and eventual firing in 2010 and 2011.

Earlier in the day, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf ruled that those same actions were not taken against Fagg as retaliation for a memo she sent to Rose raising the possibility of age discrimination within the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Iowa.

"We are pleased with the verdicts rendered by the judge and jury," said Randall Samborn, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago, which defended the case.

Fagg, who had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders, had alleged in U.S. District Court in Sioux City that Rose and Baumann discriminated against her because of her mental and physical condition. Fagg was placed on leave in January 2011 and fired in June of that year.

Fagg was not in the courtroom when the jury verdict was read, but she was aware of the jury's finding, said her attorney, Michael Carroll, of Des Moines.

"She's very disappointed and sad," Carroll said.

Rose, now a federal judge in Des Moines, did not return a message seeking comment.

Rose was sworn in as U.S. attorney in November 2009, and in January 2010 picked Baumann as her first assistant and put her in charge of the office's civil division in place of Larry Kudej, who had been Fagg's longtime supervisor.

Fagg, the lone civil attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Sioux City branch, did not like Kudej's demotion and believed Rose and Baumann were not experienced enough in civil practice. Fagg eventually sent Rose, 40, a memo that the demotion of Kudej, then 60, and other changes could possibly be age discrimination. She contended at trial that after sending the memo, Rose and Baumann took several disciplinary actions in retaliation. Fagg said those actions caused her to begin suffering from depression and anxiety.

Rose and Baumann both testified that their actions, which included reprimands, suspensions, a temporary, then permanent, transfer to the Cedar Rapids office and firing were because of Fagg's poor performance, frequent unexplained absences from work and disrespectful conduct toward them.

Fagg had sued for age discrimination, but that claim was dropped Thursday.

In his ruling on the retaliation claim, Kopf said that although Rose and Baumann were sometimes "overly zealous and harsh" in their discipline, he believed the facts showed that "the reason for any and all employment actions was Fagg's refusal to follow the lawful direction and supervision of Rose and Baumann."

Kopf called Rose and Fagg "unrepentant hard heads" who refused to give in to each other.

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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