A Jefferson County resident brought suit against the county and the Precinct 3 Commissioner for improper termination after she ran unsuccessfully for Precinct 8 Justice of the Peace.

Dawn Polk of Port Arthur filed suit on March 4 against Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael Sinegal, of Beaumont, and Jefferson County, in Jefferson County District Court.

Polk worked as an administrative secretary with the Jefferson County Road and Bridges Precinct 3 from Jan. 2, 2009, to March 19, 2014, when she was terminated. According to the lawsuit, she performed well during her five-year tenure in Precinct 3 and prior to that in other capacities for the county.

The complaint states that when she discussed running for the position of Justice of the Peace in Precinct 8, her supervisor, Precinct 3 Commissioner Sinegal, abused his power of policy-making decisions. Polk asserts that Sinegal had previously supported her plan to run in January 2013, but then he pressured her not to run.

Although the county had no laws in place regarding a current employee running for public office, Polk agreed to take leave while campaigning, the suit states. After she was defeated in the March 4 election, Polk was terminated from her position on March 19, 2014, despite her claims that she had not used county time for her campaign. Sinegal claimed that Polk had failed to perform her work duties, but, according to papers filed, could not produce evidence.

The plaintiff resigned rather than face a termination on her record. Citing unlawful denial of due process and asserting that the Sinegal’s action was retaliatory for her decision to run for public office, the plaintiff seeks: actual and punitive damages; attorney’s fees; expenses; and court costs.

She is represented by Larry Watts and Melissa Azadeh of Watts and Co. Lawyers of Missouri City.

Jefferson County District Court, case no. B-196812

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