Fired Lee County animal services officials appear in court to seek reinstatement

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Lawyers for Lee County and two fired Lee County Domestic Animals Services officials are appearing in court Thursday morning to discuss possible reinstatement.

The county last week lost an appeal of a November ruling in favor of director Donna Ward and deputy director Glenn Johnson, formerly the top two officials in the department. They filed suit in November 2014 claiming the county violated Florida’s Public Whistleblower Act by terminating their employment earlier that year. The suit alleged they were fired in retaliation for disclosing illegal and unethical county management activities.

Ward and Johnson, in the suit, claim a rift between Ward and county manager Roger Desjarlais contributed to the firings. Desjarlais became county manager in 2013, about five years after Ward assumed her position. The county installed Mack Young as acting director of animal services last year.

The former employees are seeking reparations for economic and emotional damages, attorney’s fees and other costs in addition to getting their jobs back. A jury trial is set for September.

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