City settles former court employee's lawsuit

The city will pay $80,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by an ex-municipal court employee.

Former Federal Way Municipal Court services supervisor Colleen Roque, also known as Cindy, filed a claim for damages amounting to $500,000 in February. In May, Roque filed a lawsuit. The claim and suit arose from Roque's termination from the city's court. Roque's lawsuit alleges she was unlawfully fired.

According to her claim for damages, an employee reported to her, in November 2008, that presiding judge Michael Morgan threatened to commit suicide and implied harm against others. Roque took the report of Morgan's alleged comments seriously, as the judge was under investigation by the Commission on Judicial Conduct. Roque spoke directly with Morgan about the comments and came to the conclusion that the matter amounted to a threat of workplace violence, according to the claim for damages.

Roque told her supervisor about the comments Morgan allegedly made. When action was not taken, she notified the Federal Way police and the city's human resources department regarding the situation. Roque was placed on administrative leave Nov. 22.

Meanwhile, the court's second judge, David Larson, conducted an internal investigation of Morgan's alleged threats. Larson found Roque's allegations were "baseless" and "not credible," according to his report of the investigation.

"I am of the opinion that Ms. Roque is using these events and making allegations of retaliation either to assure her of a job at the city or to negotiate a favorable departure from the city. My opinion is that her actions and allegations have been calculated to ‘set up’ the city for a claim of retaliation if she is terminated or to prevent her termination," according to Larson's report.

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, Morgan provided the paper with results of a polygraph exam he took in February. The exam concluded that Morgan, who denied claims made by Roque, answered questions truthfully regarding allegations that he threatened workplace violence.

Roque was fired Jan. 28. Her lawsuit against the City of Federal Way was schedule to go to jury trial Nov. 8, 2010. She was represented by outside legal counsel because of the potential conflict of interest had the city's law department represented her. The city's insurance carrier, Washington Cities Insurance Authority, will pay the settlement.

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