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Former worker sues LGC

Last modified: 8/12/2011 12:00:00 AM
A Concord woman arrested in 2008 on charges of stealing computer information from the Local Government Center but ultimately cleared is suing the center for wrongful termination, defamation and malicious prosecution.

Ruthanne Bradley, who was fired over the allegations, is also accusing her former employer of negligent infliction of emotional distress. Her attorney, W. Michael Dunn of Manchester, is seeking lost wages and unspecified damages.

The lawsuit, filed in Merrimack County Superior Court, also names as defendants the two computer forensic companies the Local Government Center hired to investigate its allegations against Bradley: Phoenix Digital Forensic Services in Manchester and CBE Technologies in Maine.

The lawsuit alleges the Local Government Center ignored information it had that proved Bradley was innocent. Their motive, Dunn alleges in the lawsuit, was retaliation against Bradley, who had raised concerns about the center's security system months before her arrest.

The lawsuit also alleges the two forensic companies similarly ignored information beneficial to Bradley and conducted shoddy investigations of the alleged security breach. They both had an obligation, Dunn said in the lawsuit, to give the Concord police accurate information because they knew the police were using their findings to investigate Bradley.

The Local Government Center, Dunn wrote in his lawsuit, 'could have stopped the malicious prosecution of Bradley at anytime by simply alerting the county attorney and/or the Concord police of the exculpatory evidence it had in his possession. In fact, (the Local Government Center) had a duty to inform the Concord Police Department of this information.'

Maura Carroll, executive director of the Local Government Center, declined comment yesterday through a spokeswoman. The managing member of Phoenix Digital Forensic Services, A.J. Lambert, said he had not yet received the lawsuit and could not comment. A call to CBE Technologies was not returned.

The Local Government Center administers benefit plans for local employees but said after Bradley's arrest that no personal or sensitive information had been made public.

This is the second lawsuit brought against the center by a former employee in recent days. Earlier this week, the center's former human resources director filed suit in federal court, alleging age and gender discrimination as well as invasion of privacy, wrongful termination and violations of federal disabilities and medical leave laws.

Bradley, 48, was cleared of wrongdoing by the state Office of Employment Security in 2009 and given back her unemployment benefits. Several months later, the Merrimack County Attorney's Office dropped its case against Bradley after finding the Local Government Center's security practices too 'careless' and 'sloppy' to support any charges. She had been facing four felony counts of computer-related crimes.

The Concord police echoed those concerns in a report on the case, in which Detective Mark Dumas complained that the Local Government Center's lawyers had stymied his investigation

But Bradley continues to suffer emotionally, she said yesterday, because the Local Government Center has never acknowledged her innocence and its error. Nor has it publicly acknowledged what the center's internal investigation ultimately showed: that the tapes she was accused of stealing were actually in the office but mislabeled.

'Some people would say that doesn't matter, but it does matter,' Bradley said.

She said she had trouble finding a job, even after the charges against her were dropped. Bradley landed work just six weeks ago from a friend who needed help in the office of his dental practice. But anytime something goes wrong with the office computers or something turns up missing, Bradley said she panics, even if it's a minor issue.

'I start sweating and get very anxious,' she said. 'I would say one of the biggest things to happen out of this is my (inability) to trust and not having any self-confidence any more.'

In the lawsuit, Dunn said Bradley now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, and has trouble sleeping and eating. What's most upsetting, Dunn said in his filing, is that the Local Government Center could have prevented Bradley's suffering.

'Following (Bradley's) arrest . . . there was documented evidence forwarded to the (Local Government Center) from the logs and attachments produced by its (computer forensic) experts which clearly showed that Ms. Bradley did not commit any computer crimes and that she was a faithful and diligent employee,' the lawsuit alleges. 'Yet, notwithstanding this exculpatory information, (the Local Government Center) opted not to present this evidence to the Concord Police Department and continued to stand by its false, hasty and inaccurate opinions initially given to the police.'

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323 or atimmins@cmonitor.com.)


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