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Walsh, Duckworth trade barbs over whistleblower lawsuit

Tammy Duckworth Democratic challenger for 8th Congressional District seheld by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh during their third five debates Meadows

Tammy Duckworth, Democratic challenger for the 8th Congressional District seat, held by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh during their third of five debates at the Meadows Club, Rolling Meadows, Illinois, October 9, 2012. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 12, 2012 12:11PM

As the head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth is accused of firing an employee after the woman filed a complaint against her supervisor.

Duckworth allegedly told the woman: “If you do your job and keep your mouth shut and concentrate on job duties, you will keep your job,” according to a lawsuit pending in a Downstate court. The Illinois Attorney General’s office, which is defending Duckworth, has filed a request to again dismiss the lawsuit.

The original complaint was dismissed from federal court but was again filed in state court, now being handled out of the First Judicial District in Union County. The initial attorney who handled the case for the whistleblower said it was dismissed because of “jurisdictional issues.”

It was Duckworth’s opponent, Joe Walsh, a Tea Party Republican, who flagged the lawsuit in front of more than 1,000 people in a Tuesday night debate in Rolling Meadows. Walsh did it to many “boos” in the raucous audience, but made it known that Duckworth, a Democrat, had a December pending court date.

The disclosure caused a stern retort from Duckworth campaign manager Kaitlin Fahey, who called Walsh a “financially irresponsible deadbeat.”

“This is a dispute between a VA employee and her direct supervisor. Tammy was added to the suit because of her job title as Director of the Agency, and this case has been dismissed several times. If Congressman Walsh wants to discuss lawsuits, he has had countless lawsuits filed against him personally,” Fahey said. “From his failure to pay his property taxes, his child support, his mortgage, his furnace repairman, and even his own Campaign Manager. Congressman Walsh has proven to voters over and over that he is a financially irresponsible deadbeat.”

During the debate, Duckworth called the lawsuit a distraction by Walsh and said that Walsh, too, was the target of a suit filed by a former staffer. In a press availability, Duckworth distanced herself from the complaint.

“When you’re the head of an agency especially one with a thousand employees, it is common to get sued in the name of the agency,” Duckworth said Tuesday. “Personally, I think that if this complaint is Mr. Walsh’s best reason for being reelected to Congress, then I feel very good about my chances.”

However, the complaint does include specific allegations against Duckworth. That includes alleging that Duckworth humiliated employee Christine Butler “by announcing publicly, in a loud voice, at the Anna Veterans Home, that she had just terminated her, and calling for security,” the lawsuit alleges.

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