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July 11, 2013

Former DA investigator’s lawsuit dismissed


A lawsuit accusing District Attorney Janice Steidley of unfairly firing a former investigator after he contracted a debilitating disease has been dismissed in U.S. District Court in Tulsa.
Plaintiff Eddie Griffin of Vinita recently filed a joint stipulation of dismissal without prejudice, meaning he can refile the suit at a  later date if he chooses. Griffin had been an investigator with the DA’s office since 1997 before his dismissal on Feb. 11, 2011.
The state Attorney General’s Office urged rejection of the lawsuit on the ground the district attorney was covered by the principle of sovereign immunity that protects public officials from civil suits while performing the duties of their office.
The Tulsa World first reported the lawsuit’s dismissal in Wednesday’s paper, saying it was filed in the spring of 2012 after Griffin had submitted a discrimination complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
According to the lawsuit, the 47-year-old Griffin contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after suffering a brain injury subduing a man in the DA’s office in Claremore in August of 2010. A doctor’s opinion said the injury led to “headaches, decreased cognitive function and consequential development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.”
Griffin’s suit said Steidley fired him six months later  -- in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act -- because of his slurred speech and weakened muscle condition.
The World said the lawsuit included a letter from Steidley saying she dismissed Griffin because she couldn’t afford “a full-time investigator and I do not know if I will ever be able to fund the position.” But the paper said the EEOC had determined in its inquiry that Steidley hired an investigator to replace Griffin. The World said records showed Steidley also changed her reason for the termination to “incompetence.”  
The EEOC, in a letter of determination dated March 9, 2012, described Steidley’s reason for the termination as “unsubstantiated and unbelievable,” The World reported.
Efforts to reach Griffin and Steidley for comment on the lawsuit’s dismissal were unsuccessful.

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