Legal Ethics

Lawyer's Fake Letter Complaining About Boss Puts Her in Hot Water

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Attorney Maureen Duggan wasn’t happy with her boss at a state agency in Connecticut. But she was afraid that openly complaining about him could put her job at risk.

So she drafted a letter in 2004 that was written to appear as if the sender were a parking lot attendant complaining about Duggan’s boss. She decided it wouldn’t be right to send it, she says in court documents. However, when she told her husband of that decision, he misunderstood and thought she meant he should send it—and he did, reports the Connecticut Law Tribune in an article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

That letter sparked an investigation that led to Duggan’s boss, former state Ethics Commission Director Alan Plofsky, losing his job and filing a federal lawsuit. That lawsuit, in turn, led to a deposition in January at which Duggan was asked about the letter and admitted drafting it.

And now it looks like Plofsky might not be the only one who suffers job consequences as a result of the letter, the legal publication reports. The state is looking into possible action against Duggan under the administrative policies that apply to Connecticut employees, and the letter also may fall within the “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” prohibited by Rule 8.4(3) of Rules of Professional Conduct.

“I felt between a rock and a hard place,” Duggan says in a deposition, explaining her thinking at the time she wrote the letter. “I had a family to support and I couldn’t walk away from my job. My husband wasn’t working at the time. And on the other hand, I was going in to employment where I felt that the conduct and how the office was being run and how I was being treated personally by Mr. Plofsky was becoming increasingly problematic.”

Earlier coverage: “Conn. Ethics Counsel’s Fake Letter Helped Get Ethics Chief Axed”

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