ORLANDO — The six female workers recently fired from the Orlando
State’s Attorney office after the newly elected top prosecutor
learned of their alleged drug use have no legal grounds to fight
their terminations, according to one attorney.
The Orlando Sentinel reported
that the women — most of them members of a group known as “The
Squad” — were fired after attending a bachelorette party for
co-worker and bride-to-be Shannon Solo in New Orleans where drugs
were allegedy present and cocaine was brought in filled in a rubber ducky.
Solo never made it down the aisle, and later told a new boyfriend
of her and her co-worker’s alleged antics. At some point, the new
boyfriend, who was an Orange County deputy and drug agent, relayed
the news of his new girlfriend’s indiscretions to his bosses,
leading to the firings of five of the women.
Attorney Danielle Wall also was terminated after she was accused
of smoking marijuana at a different location and outing.
In announcing the firings on Jan. 20, Orange-Osceola State
Attorney Aramis Ayala revealed that a 194-page internal investigation
found that all of those terminated either used drugs or saw
co-workers do so and condoned it.
The Sentinel also reported
that Solo and attorney Alicia Virginio later admitted they used drugs
during the group’s New Orleans’ getaway. Solo is also alleged to
have snorted cocaine through rolled-up dollar bills and used
Adderall, while Virginio helped purchase marijuana she also later
Ayala noted all six of the women worked in the Orange County
office and were immediately suspended after she learned of the
alleged incidents and her office investigated, according to another
Christopher J. Whitelock, managing partner of Whitelock and
Associates, P.A., told the Florida Record that all the firings
can almost certainly be justified based on violations of a clearly
expressed set of bylaws governing all office employees.
“At the time of their hiring, they took an oath to do the
position and to follow the law,” he said. “Based on that alone,
it seems they had a good-faith basis to terminate and there doesn’t
appear to be any grounds for a legal suit by those being terminated.”
Ayala said that more than likely none of the women will face
criminal prosecution, at least partly because of the amount of time
that has passed since the crimes took place and the fact that any
charges filed all would almost certainly be misdemeanors.
“It sounds like the basis for the terminations was the usage of
illegal drugs,” Whitelock said. “Regardless of how things were
handled on the criminal front, that would be grounds for authorities
doing what they did.”
Of the two attorneys implicated, Wall worked on drunk-driving
cases and was previously honored by the Central Florida Chapter of
Mothers Against Drunk Driving as a top DUI prosecutor, while Virginio
handled juvenile cases, the Sentinel reported.
The three women who did not use drugs were fired because of
insubordination. Their appeal efforts were also denied by Ayala.
“They had the same obligations as all the others,” Whitelock
said. “The fact that they didn’t report the illegal activities
makes them complicit to it.”