On April 29, 2020, Lake County agreed to pay $575,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by two former county clerk employees who were fired for questioning possible improprieties in government contracting. The suit was filed in 2019 against Clerk Robin O’Connor and Lake County by Tracey Repa and Wendy Meister, former clerk’s office employees who said they were fired by O’Connor after they questioned county spending. HSPRD attorneys Chirag Badlani, Margaret Truesdale and Chris Wilmes represented Ms. Repa and Ms. Meister, whose case was set to proceed to trial in early May.
“The settlement is a clear indication that Ms. Repa and Ms. Meister were treated reprehensibly by the Lake County Clerk for trying to do the right thing,” Badlani said in a statement.
In 2019, Repa was chief deputy clerk and Meister worked as a research analyst and administrative specialist. They questioned county spending for contracts related to the Lake County courthouse expansion project. Repa and Meister eventually met with representatives from the sheriff’s office to share their concerns, according to the complaint. The sheriff’s office then informed O’Connor about the meeting and fired Repa and Meister within days of learning about their meeting with the sheriff – in what the lawsuit alleged was an act of retaliation.
“Anybody that has serious concerns about public corruption and the misuse of taxpayer dollars should be able to go to law enforcement without fear of retaliation,” Repa said in a statement released via her attorneys. “It was painful to lose a job that I loved after doing what I thought was right.”
“We saw something, and we said something,” Meister said. “We tried to identify where money was being spent, whether the contracting process was being followed, and whether there were misrepresentations being made to the Lake County taxpayers.”