Accountant who disputed directive to defy "general accounting principles" cannot sue over firing
Roger Burney sued Rose Holt and New St. Paul Head Start after he was terminated as the accountant for the program. He claimed wrongful interference with his contracual relationship and a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). Holt argued that, as a government actor, she was immune from liability for "tortiously interfering with Burney's business relationship" because she acted in good faith. The Trial Court rejected her immunity argument but did summarily dismiss the WPA claim. Both sides appealed.
The Court of Appeals relied upon Holt's description of the deteriorating relationship that led to Burney's firing and reversed the trial judge's failure to grant summary disposition. After describing a several-month-long battle between Burney and Holt over Holt's demand that the books be "balanced" and "closed" each month--a demand that Burney claimed would require him to violate general accounting principles, the Court of Appeals ruled that Holt acted in good faith and was immune from liability. A lack of good faith would require proof of malicicious intent, and the Court relied upon Holt's explanation to decide that she did not act with malice. The Court did uphold the trial judge's summary dismissal of the WPA claim.