By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- While acknowledging the truth of some aspects of a lawsuit brought by a former top aide, Auditor Suzanne Bump in a Friday court filing denied that she conducted electioneering out of her office and pushed out Laura Marlin because she was a whistleblower.
"Defendants justly ended Ms. Marlin's employment with the Office because her ongoing rude, disrespectful, and confrontational behavior towards her colleagues, including toward Auditor Bump, were an impediment to the smooth and efficient functioning of the Office and it became apparent that, despite coaching and counseling to which Auditor Bump had referred her, she was unable or unwilling to correct her unacceptable behaviors and negative management style," Bump's attorneys wrote in response to Marlin's Aug. 6 lawsuit.
Marlin claims she was forced to resign after raising concerns about political interference with auditing processes and campaign activities occurring in Bump's State House office. Beyond a statement that denied the claims, Bump and her office have declined to comment.
Marlin had claimed Bump wanted to hold a political meeting to seek the endorsement of a labor group representing social workers in her State House office in May and only moved it after she raised objections. In her suit, Marlin claimed the day after the meeting, Bump told Marlin the group's political director should have been contacted in the course of a recent audit.
In her response Bump said Marlin wrongly objected to holding a "legal and proper meeting" with leaders of SEIU Local 509 about concerns with the process of an audit that was released about seven weeks earlier.
Bump said she moved the meeting to avoid a "further debate" with Marlin and later talked to Marlin about her "unprofessional behavior" and advised her that union officials should have been contacted to identify members who "could provide information relative to the state objectives of the audit."
Bump also acknowledged that on one occasion an unidentified state representative whom she had asked to help her collect nomination signatures had picked up a packet of papers from her office.
Bump also said she had been unaware that a Bump campaign staffer had dropped off campaign paperwork for Marlin, and said the office's general counsel told the staffer he should "never again bring campaign material to the Office."
Marlin's lawsuit has created political hay for Bump's Republican opponent Patricia Saint Aubin, who said in a statement that if the allegations are true they are "unethical and potentially criminal."
The attorney general's office previously said Bump would be represented by outside counsel. The attorneys listed on the response are John Graff and Tobias Crawford, of the firm Hirsch Roberts Weinstein. The judge assigned the case is Leo Sorokin. Crawford clerked for Sorokin when he was judge magistrate, according to his bio on the law firm's website.
Bump conceded that in Marlin's most recent two "formal" performance evaluations she praised Marlin's performance and gave her merit-based pay raises - which was one of the claims in Marlin's suit.
The response contends "outside the formal review process, Auditor Bump provided Ms. Marlin with a memorandum discussing and listing some of her unacceptable interactions with co-workers and colleagues, which they also discussed on numerous occasions, and referred Ms. Marlin to professional counseling and coaching to remedy her negative behaviors."
Marlin had claimed that after she raised objections to Bump's directive that the union's political director should have been included in the audit process Bump "became extremely angry and combative in response to Ms. Marlin's statements and memorandum. She hurled invectives at Ms. Marlin, at times raising her voice and using foul language."