The whistleblower who testified against Mobile County Revenue Commissioner Kim Hastie at her 2015 criminal trial has taken the first step toward filing a wrongful termination lawsuit, adding to the outlying legal issues that still surround the three-year-old allegations.
Victor Crawford, who was employed by Mobile County for 26 years in a number of capacities, saw his longstanding computer programming contract with the License Commission terminated less than six months after testifying against Hastie.
County Commissioners voted 2-1 to terminate Crawford’s contract in December 2015 at the request of License Commissioner Nick Matranga, who sat with Hastie’s family and friends throughout her two-week trial and was appointed as her replacement when she took over the Revenue Commission.
At the time, Matranga said Crawford’s termination had “nothing to do with [Hastie’s] trial,” and was instead due to the cost of the county’s contract with Crawford’s company, APL Software Inc. According to Matranga, the average cost of that contract was $47,000 a month.
However, others saw his termination as retaliatory, including County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood, who at the time said she believed Crawford’s cooperation in Hastie’s trial was “absolutely the underlying motivation” for the decision — a theory the former contractor seems to share.
On Jan. 13, Crawford filed notice of a wrongful termination claim with the county, which is usually the first step in any lawsuit brought against the commission or other county officials.
In the document, Crawford claims “Kim Hastie, the Mobile County Revenue Commission and the Mobile County Commission” violated state and federal law when they terminated APL Software’s contract; if a lawsuit moves forward, they will most likely be the defendants.
On Jan. 18, Mobile County Attorney Jay Ross told Lagniappe the county has “received the claim” and would “review and process it as we do other claims.”
Crawford was a key witness in the case against Hastie. After blowing the whistle to federal authorities, he wore a hidden camera, provided hundreds of documents to prosecutors and worked with the FBI to bill the county for services Hastie was aware he hadn’t performed.
She was also accused of “extorting” Crawford into hiding payments to a political consultant within his monthly invoices, buying presents for her office Christmas party and covering her qualifying fee in the 2014 Republican primary.
While the three-page complaint goes on to rehash a number of claims from Hastie’s federal indictment, Crawford also discussed the aftermath of the trial and how it affected his work at the License Commission under Hastie. Among other things, Crawford claims he was no longer allowed to attend conferences or participate in staff meetings and teleconferences with state officials — all of which he claims “interfered with [his] ability to effectively perform” his work.
Crawford also wrote that Hastie and her former deputy license commissioner and co-defendant, Ramona Yeager, “stopped communicating” with him after the 2015 trial concluded.
When a claim like Crawford’s is filed, the county typically investigates the allegations through a third-party administrator — a requirement of the county’s excess-insurance carrier. As of now, there’s no way to know when or if Crawford might move forward with a formal civil lawsuit.