Former secretary Debra Sauers was fired in retaliation by Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom because she supports Shauna Clark in her sexual harassment allegations against the county, contends attorney Gerry D'Elia.
Testimony continued Tuesday before the County Career Service Council as county officials are trying to show they had good cause to fire Sauers for "inefficient and inaccurate work" while D'Elia counters with caustic accusations of discrimination."Dave Yocom targeted Sauers because she was an embarrassment to him. She was supporting Shauna in her pending federal suit against the county and he had to figure out some way to fire her," D'Elia told the Deseret News.
"As long as Shauna's case goes on, it makes his administration look bad. Debra's termination was done out of spite and retaliation."
Sauers was terminated from her position as a secretary in the county attorney's office Jan. 25.
She and Clark were the victims listed in the forcible sexual abuse indictments against former Salt Lake County Attorney Ted Cannon handed up by a grand jury in 1986.
Cannon pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of assault in connection with the allegations, spending 30 days in jail for this and other offenses.
In May 1987, Clark filed a $1.2 million civil suit against Cannon alleging sexual harassment.
On Friday in a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Ronald N. Boyce, Clark's attorney Zane L. Gill accused Yocom of retaliating against at least one county employee for supporting Clark. Gill asked Boyce to order Yocom to answer his allegations. The matter is under advisement.
D'Elia intends to call Clark as a witness for Sauers in his case before the Career Service Council.
The council has the power to reinstate Sauers if it can be shown that she was unjustly terminated.
"Yocom rules through vindictiveness. He intimidates his employees to comply with his way of doing things and his views or be fired," said D'Elia.
When Yocom took office in 1986, he transferred D'Elia from a high-profile post as a prosecutor on the Mark W. Hofmann prosecution team to a position in a satellite office. Yocom argued the transfer was not a demotion. D'Elia resigned, alleging that Yocom was punishing him for supporting Yocom's election opponent, Michael Christensen.
D'Elia, who now has a private practice in Park City, agreed to represent Sauers because "she is a victim of Yocom's vindictiveness. She is not being treated fairly," he said.
"To terminate a highly skilled secretary because she has the courage to support a friend is extremely harsh."
Sauers is being denied due process in her termination "solely for her support of Clark," he told the three-member Career Service Council Monday.
Representing the county, Jerry Campbell told the council that Sauers had been verbally warned that her work was not meeting standards. In 1985, she had been suspended for two days and was again suspended in 1987.
On one afternoon, Sauers left work saying she was ill but was seen later that day at a local restaurant having lunch with friends, said Campbell.
Her production was significantly lower than others who have similar secretarial positions, he said.
"She made errors and didn't correct them. She didn't work to alleviate the backlog of work.
"The administration didn't set her up to fail. She was a part-time worker getting paid a full-time salary," said Campbell.