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Ore. woman wins $365,000 in whistleblower suit

By The Associated Press
12.05.06

MEDFORD, Ore. — A former airport employee has won a whistleblower lawsuit after claiming she was fired for disclosing that some airport security workers slept on duty and others didn’t have proper training.

The suit against Jackson County contended that Lynda Longfellow of Butte Falls, a former parking enforcement officer, had been retaliated against by her superiors at the county airport, infringing on her free-speech rights.

A jury of six women and one man in U.S. District Court awarded Longfellow $365,000 in damages on Nov. 29 after reviewing evidence including a state report that the county-owned airport had hired 19 security people without the proper training or certification in 2004 and 2005.

Among the allegations were that two airport security personnel were fired for sleeping on the job and another employee was fired after the theft of a laptop computer.

“This trial focused on an epidemic of problems of security officers sleeping on the job,” said Medford attorney Thad Guyer, who represented Longfellow.

Mike Jewett, an Ashland attorney representing the county, said he was surprised by the decision and would ask U.S. District Judge Owen Panner to reduce the damage award.

“Our position was that she was fired for misconduct,” Jewett said, declining to elaborate on the details of the misconduct.

He said the issues raised in the trial have been resolved.

“This is describing things that happened two years ago,” he said. “This is a safe airport.”

Guyer called for an outside audit of security at the airport, and Longfellow said she was relieved the jury cleared her name.

“I loved my job, and I wouldn’t mind going back there,” she said.


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