Erin Toll today filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court against her boss, Barbara J. Kelley, claiming that her Constitutional rights have been violated. Chris Lines, spokesman for the Department of Regulatory Agencies, which Kelley heads, also was named in the lawsuit.
“Ms. Toll’s rights…have been taken by Defendant Kelley through arbitrary and capricious enactments of restrictions on Ms. Toll without any due process of law,” according to the suit filed by her attorney, Bill Finger. The suit also says that Kelley has refused to meet “face-to-face” to settle the matter. The ban has now exceeded 45 days. “The duration of the ban and taking of Ms. Toll’s constitutional rights are unnecessary and unwanted and are not momentary based upon emergency or immediate need,” according to the lawsuit.
On March 16, Kelley placed Toll on involuntary leave with pay, or administrative suspension, as the director of the real estate division. Toll is paid slightly less than $115,000 annually, according to DORA records. When placed on administrative leave, Kelley also instructed Toll that she could only make limited comments to the press, and was banned from speaking with employees at the real estate division. Being banned from speaking with fellow employees was a “a total blanket ban on association and speech,” according to the suit. Kelly “threatened Toll with potential discipline,” if she violated the terms, according to the lawsuit.
Barred from speaking to legislators, governor
“Worse yet,” the suit states, on April 20, Kelley banned Toll from speaking at testifying at the state legislature or communicating with Gov. Bill Ritter, according to the suit. The legislature recently passed a bill, waiting Ritter’s signature, which would basically make DORA in charge of the division, instead of it being an autonomous division. The suit also contends that DORA released incomplete information to the press at times. DORA also released to the press an e-mail exchange between her and former division employee Zachary Urban. In the wake of a public dispute with Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, Toll wrote Urban that her “ego is a bit bruised” but that it was “nothing a little yoga and responsive action to an attack won’t mend.” The suit says that DORA’s ”purpose of intent of disclosing the Urban e-mail to the public media was to create a negative image of Ms. Toll. The disclosure of the Urban e-mail was done in bad faith given that Ms. Toll was prohibited from commenting on the document.” She said she did not know of it, until the evening before the Denver Post included it in a story. The story ran on the front page of the paper on May 4. Reportedly, the Post plans another large article about Toll this Sunday.
Toll wants to speak to the press
The suit is seeking “injunctive relief” against Kelley, which would enjoin her from enforcing the prohibitions against Toll, including the ban on communicating with employees of DORA and the real estate division; communicating and testifying with legislators or the governor and his office, and ” Ms. Toll from talking to the press or communicating with the press.” She also wants to be able to enter the building occupied by DORA, which includes public and private offices, and even a restaurant.
The building includes the office of attorney regulations, so she cannot enter it to even pay her annual dues as an attorney. It also includes the Civil Rights Division, and she is barred from going to the office “for the filing of a discrimination complaint.” Toll already has filed a whistle-blower complaint with a state office against DORA and Kelley. Her initial request to be re-instated with her full authority has been rejected by an administrative law judge and by Kelley, decisions she has appealed. She is awaiting a decision on her appeal.
Both a DORA spokeswoman and Toll’s lawyer declines to comment. Earlier, the Colorado Attorney General argued that it was standard practice to bar a person being investigated by a department to speak to the press or fellow employees, while the investigation is ongoing. Toll was placed on leave in the wake of publicly talking about an investigation of American Home Funding and one of its mortgage brokers, Sen. Harvey. DORA later issued a statement saying that Harvey was not being investigated, and had never been the subject of an investigation.
Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com or 303-945-6865.
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