Court weighs retaliation suit against Kim Daniels

An employment grievance? Or a report about wasted taxpayer money?

An appeals court Tuesday waded into a dispute about whether a former Florida House member should be shielded from a lawsuit filed by a one-time aide who alleges she was fired after reporting that she had been required to perform personal tasks for the lawmaker.

House General Counsel Daniel Bell told a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal that the lawsuit against former Rep. Kimberly Daniels should be dismissed because of “qualified immunity” — a legal concept that generally protects government officials from personal liability in cases related to their duties.

Bell said ex-aide Karen Riggien was speaking as an employee when she reported the alleged misconduct and that employment grievances do not provide a basis for such a lawsuit.

“It’s her reporting the interference with the normal function of her job duties,” Bell said.

But Riggien’s attorney, Marie Mattox, said Riggien reported the alleged misconduct because it involved wasted tax dollars. The lawsuit alleges a violation of Riggien’s First Amendment rights because she faced retaliation for reporting the conduct.

“She’s performing personal tasks for a representative, and she believes that those are

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