Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez terminated Reardon in December, after three years running the agency that spearheads the county's anti-drug agenda. To Reardon, Dominguez violated a state law prohibiting employers from firing members of the General Assembly for missing work because of legislative duties.
Dominguez declined to discuss why he fired Reardon, except to say politics played no part in his decision. A letter Dominguez sent to Reardon this week denying her request to return to the alliance indicates he was not satisfied with her work. "(Y)our work performance reflected that you were not qualified to retain your previous position; and circumstances have changed so as to make it unreasonable to re-employ you in said position," the sheriff's letter states.
The law protecting legislators' jobs stipulates they must be qualified to return to their positions. But House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said the sheriff's actions break the law.
"It's a violation of the law, and I'm very disappointed in that sheriff for violating the law," Bauer said.
"He's a lame duck sheriff, so I suppose he doesn't think he has to worry about that anymore," the speaker said.
"That's a shame, because all people should be people of good will. This is a part-time job. It's a difficult job," he said.
House Democratic Caucus Supervising Attorney Patrick Cunningham said he sent Dominguez a letter informing him of the law.
"Now it's up to (Reardon) to decide how she wants to proceed," Cunningham said.
If you examine the statute in question, it appears Reardon has a pretty strong leg to stand on in being reinstated to her former job. Indiana Code 2-3-3-1 reads:
Any person being a member of the general assembly of the state of Indiana who, in order to perform the duties as a member of the general assembly of the state of Indiana by attendance at any session of the general assembly, or attendance at any duly called committee meeting, conference, or legislative study committee meeting of which he is a member, has left or leaves a position or employment, other than a temporary position or employment, in the employ of any employer and is still qualified to perform the duties of his employment and makes application for reemployment within ten (10) days after the close of any such session, or meeting, of the general assembly shall be restored by his employer to such position or employment at not less than the same pay or to a similar position or employment and pay unless the employer's circumstances have so changed as to make it impossible or unreasonable to do so. When a member of the general assembly is restored to his employment it shall be done without discrimination, nor shall the member be caused to suffer inconvenience or any other adverse action by his employer, as a result of any action taken while serving as a legislator.
I read this statute as pretty much tying the hands of an employer from firing a legislator while the legislator is on leave from their job during the legislative session as appears to be the case with Reardon. If Dominguez had rehired Reardon and waited a few weeks to fire her and relied on reasons other than her absence from work during the legislative session, he would have probably been on safe legal ground.
It is interesting to note that Byrne's article notes that Reardon formally worked for U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky before he eliminated her position, which seems out of the ordinary. The article also raises a serious conflict of interest issue respecting Reardon's employment and her legislative duties. "Reardon sponsored a bill this session that brought more funding to the alliance," Byrne writes.