Jury Awards $615,000 to Cherokee Man in Retaliation Case; Whistleblower Now Awaits Judge’s Decision

Firefighter protection gear

A Cherokee jury awarded Cherokee man David Comingdeer $615,000 in a case in which he alleged he was retaliated against by tribal administrators “for whistleblowing on mismanagement of a fire protection grant,” a KTUL article from August 28 states.

2 News reports that “Comingdeer worked as a firefighter for Cherokee Nation” for over 20 years. According to the article, “[t]he tribe previously contracted firefighters through a US Forestry Services Grant.” Comingdeer alleged “that grant was about to be taken away because of a problem with the tribes paying the firefighters.”

Comingdeer said that after he blew the whistle, he was “suspended twice without pay” and transferred “from the fire department to an office job.” He left the office job in 2016, 2 News reports. He filed a civil suit against the Cherokee Nation.

Chad Smith, Comingdeer’s lawyer and former Cherokee Chief, was quoted in the article: “After a few months, he said I just can’t take it. He resigns. So there was the constructive discharge which was filed under constructive discharge and breach of freedom of speech and whistleblowing statute.”

A six-person jury “deliberated for one hour” and found “the Cherokee Nation violated Comingdeer’s freedom of speech and created intolerable conditions that led him to quit his job.” Smith added that “[t]here were actually three counts…The judge gets to decide one count which is the whistleblowing and what to do with the jury verdict.”

According to the article, Comingdeer is awaiting a decision from the judge on “if the jury’s decision is appropriate for the judgment.”

“I disagree with the jury’s advisory verdict in this employment case from 2016 and await the judge’s final order,” Cherokee Nation Senior Assistant Attorney General Greg Calvert said in a statement to 2 News. KTUL reports that the “Cherokee National says the trial judge will issue a final order within 60 days.”

Read the KTUL article about the case here. 

Read 2 News’ coverage of the case here. 

Read more employment news here.

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