A Duquesne man who sued Allegheny County in 2011 based on the jail's refusal to rehire him is making an unusual demand for a default judgment based on an allegation that an administrator deleted emails that could be pivotal to his case.
In a motion discussed at a conference in U.S. District Court today, former corrections officer William Grimes said after a jail administrator was told to preserve email related to his application, the email was nonetheless deleted.
"Now we're dealing with documents that don't even exist, because they've been deliberately destroyed," said Timothy Kolman, the attorney representing Mr. Grimes, in the conference with District Judge Joy Flowers Conti. "I have never had this happen to me before in any litigation."
Craig Maravich, the attorney representing the county in the case, said there has been as yet no effort made to restore the deleted emails.
According to the complaint filed in 2011, Mr. Grimes, who is African American, was fired by the jail in 2004 for "unsatisfactory conduct" after he asked a female acquaintance "Does size count?"
He sought to be rehired in 2008, scored well on the test, and was given a conditional offer of employment in late 2009, but it was nixed by jail personnel administrator Lynda Pastor because of the past "misconduct" according to the complaint.
White county employees who have committed comparable but more serious misconduct have been transferred, not fired, according to the complaint.
Mr. Grimes wants compensation for lost wages and benefits, plus payment for pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
Discovery deadlines have been pushed back repeatedly, mostly at the request of the county, but at least once due to Mr. Kolman's travel needs.
Among other things, Mr. Kolman wants to see all email related to the decision not to rehire Mr. Grimes.
Ms. Pastor was deposed this month, saying then that she deletes emails when the backlog prevents her from receiving or sending new messages.
She said she did not deliberately destroy emails.
Mr. Kolman argued that she was told to save email relevant to the case, but did not, resulting in spoiled evidence.
He wrote in a motion for default judgment that "not only had documents critical to Plaintiff's case been willfully destroyed, in direct violation of a request by the County of Allegheny to preserve them, but also, documents requested over a year ago had neither been searched nor provided to Plaintiff."
He asked Judge Conti to declare the county in default, which would then focus the case on the amount of the damages due to Mr. Grimes.
Mr. Maravich did not directly address the email issue in the conference, and county Solicitor Andrew Szefi could not be immediately reached.
Judge Conti ordered the attorneys to meet within a week, and said she will hear argument on the motion for a default judgment July 16.
Rich Lord: email@example.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord. First Published May 29, 2013 12:30 AM