Union rep, City Judge object to articles

By 
Kathleen Gilluly
Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Outlook has had several stories regarding a union grievance filed Oct. 22, 2020 by Laurel City Court Clerks Sheri Phillips and Monica Salo against Laurel City Court Prosecutor and candidate for judge Juliane Lore recently. The grievance specified a number of harassment claims against Lore. The City hired Attorney Michelle Braukmann to investigate the charges and she reported them all to be unfounded. Her findings were released to the City Feb. 22, 2021 and Mayor Tom Nelson dismissed the complaints on Feb. 24. Braukmann determined that the conflict between the clerks and the prosecutor, while unfortunate, did not rise to the level requiring action.

Both Union Representative Hannah Nash, who presented the grievance to the City, and City Judge Jean Kerr have made objections to the articles in the Outlook, with Nash writing, “… you did not reach out to the referenced members nor the Union for clarification, evidence, or statement prior to running the first article.” She noted that the City has a policy preventing City employees from speaking to the press. She also asked the Outlook to run a retraction and stated, “… the Outlook must present the parties with Freedom of Information Requests to legally secure the documents.” The Outlook did not violate law or policy in obtaining the complaint documents or the results of the investigation.

The Outlook has been in touch with Judge Kerr for several months regarding the complaints and investigation, but she has been advised by her legal counsel not to make a formal statement. Recently, though, she has commented on Lore’s candidacy for City Judge. Her statement is on p. 4 of this week’s Outlook in its entirety.

In part, Kerr wrote, “The Court is also functioning well and not in the manner as presented in the Outlook. The [gathering] of the information, which is also questionable as far as bias, was illegally released to the paper without any thought regarding ethics and rights of which an attorney is to uphold.”

On July 6, Lore appeared before the Laurel City Council and requested the court become a court of record, in part because the city has grown. If that were to occur it would effectively disqualify Judge Kerr from running for the position in the future because those courts require judges to have passed the bar and practiced law in the state.

“While it is true Laurel has grown, there are many options that the City of Laurel Council and citizens should be aware of before making any decisions regarding changing Laurel City Court and how it will serve the City in the future,” wrote Judge Kerr. “There needs to be a thought process and the citizens need to have a voice as to the cause and effects of the Court structure they desire, and the Council then act accordingly.”

That issue will be explored further at the City Council Workshop on Tuesday, July 20 at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers. Folks are welcome to attend in person or watch via the City’s Facebook page.

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