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 smoked.
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 Sentinel report.
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.”