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Secretary to Axed Partner Plans Whistle-Blower Suit

Posted Dec 14, 2007 4:32 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A legal secretary who warned a major Maine law firm that the senior partner for whom she worked was apparently mishandling funds now plans to file a whistle-blower suit, contending that she was wrongfully fired as a result.

Ellie Rommel's attorney also expects to file a claim with the Maine Human Rights Commission, according to local ABC News affiliate WMTW. However, a spokesman for Verrill Dana has said that Rommel was not fired, and would be welcome to return to work at the firm, according to the Portland Press-Herald.

As detailed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, John Duncan, a 29-year lawyer at the firm for whom Rommel worked as a legal secretary, was fired by Verrill Dana for allegedly misappropriating funds. He is a former chairman of the firm's executive board. The incident has become public at least in part because of 1,000 letters that the law firm sent to clients, explaining the situation.

Partner Gregg Ginn, who is acting as a spokesman for the 100-lawyer Portland firm, tells the Press-Herald that Rommel is a "hero" who decided to leave the firm's employment and would be welcome to return to work there.

But Rommel's lawyer, Daniel Lilley, says Rommel resigned because of the the stress she experienced after discovering Duncan's apparent wrongdoing, according to the newspaper. As the Press-Herald puts it, Rommel "later reconsidered and asked for short-term medical leave, but the request was denied, so she felt forced to leave," according to her lawyer.

"If I had to do it again, I know I would do it,” Rommel tells WMTW, referring to her decision to blow the whistle on her boss. “But I never dreamt it would be so difficult, so painful."

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