WEST PALM BEACH–After three years, a deputy in the Palm Beach Sheriff’s
Office will have her day in court.
In a pending whistleblower lawsuit, Bridgette Bott claims
her employer, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, retaliated against her for testimony she
gave in the DUI manslaughter case of John Goodman, the Wellington polo club founder. The
Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 16 in Bott's favor, allowing the case
to proceed and rejecting the sheriff’s argument that Bott was not permitted to
pursue legal action.
The complaint stems from Bott’s involvement in Goodman's criminal
trial. In 2012, Goodman, then on house arrest and awaiting
trial, was accused of deliberately tampering with and damaging his ankle monitoring
device. Bott, who was working a private security detail for Goodman on the
night in question, testified on Goodman’s behalf that the damage occurred accidently
and that the accused brought it to her attention immediately following the
The lawsuit further alleges a conspiracy between Bradshaw and the Assistant State Attorney to revoke Goodman’s bond, and claims Bott was
called to testify then subsequently turned away from a hearing on the charge
when prosecutors discovered her testimony contradicted that of other deputies, which
supported the state’s case. Bott was later deposed by defense attorneys when
reports placed her at the scene.
“Apparently (Assistant State Attorney Sherri Collins) had not really read
Bott’s report of the incident, which contradicted the other deputies who claimed
that obviously this was an escape attempt," Isidro Garcia, Bott's attorney, told the Florida Record.
Bott’s account successfully cleared Goodman and restored his
bond agreement; however, shortly after, she was given a 40-hour unpaid
suspension, removed from the $33 per hour security detail pending an
investigation and shunned by her colleagues.
“The people at the sheriff’s office were very angry at Bott,”
Bradshaw denies the allegations, saying Bott’s
disciplinary action resulted from a prior incident involving a man who
committed suicide. Garcia contended that this was used as a pretext for
discipline in the Goodman incident.
Harriet Lewis, the attorney for Bradshaw, was not available for
The case was set for trial in August, but had
been stayed pending the appellate court’s ruling on a defense motion. Bradshaw argued that Bott could not sue the office because she had not followed
administrative procedures for conflict resolution. The sheriff’s office has a
collective bargaining unit agreement as well as a review board to determine
cause in cases of termination or disciplinary action. It is not intended
for whistleblower claims, however.
“They claimed that that was an administrative procedure for
Whistleblower Act purposes and the Fourth (District Court of Appeals) determined ‘no it’s not.’ It was never really intended to be set up as a whistleblower resolution,” Garcia said.
The Whistleblower Act protects employees from retaliatory
actions resulting from the report of illegal or dangerous activities on the
part of the employer or contractor.
Bott remains employed as a deputy in the Palm Beach Sheriff’s
Office. She is seeking undisclosed financial damages in her claim.
Appellate Court’s decision, the case will go to a jury trial pending a reset.