Former staffer sues Sen. Wendy Rogers

Lawsuit alleges abuse and wrongful termination over COVID-19 case

By: - December 21, 2021 3:52 pm
Wendy Rogers

Sen. Wendy Rogers speaking to the Cottonwood Oathkeepers in March 2021. Photo via Twitter/@WendyRogersAZ

Flagstaff Republican Wendy Rogers’ former assistant is suing the senator and the state, alleging wrongful termination, assault and emotional distress stemming from a series of alleged incidents that occurred earlier this year.

Michael Polloni, in the lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Monday, repeated many of the same claims that were part of an ethics complaint that was dismissed alleging a hostile work environment.

In December of 2020, Polloni had come down with COVID-19 and was told to self-isolate, per the Arizona Department of Administration guidelines, for 10 days. Rogers questioned whether or not Polloni was actually sick, saying her “bulls*** detector is going off,” according to the suit obtained by the Arizona Mirror.

When Polloni returned to work he found that his belongings had been placed into drawers and “one item of particular personal importance was damaged,” the complaint says. Later that day Senate pages arrived to help hang things on the walls and when asked if Polloni had anything to hang, Rogers allegedly said that he could not do so and that they’d speak privately about it.

During the private conversation, Rogers allegedly accused Polloni of faking his illness to get out of work and began raising her voice. When Polloni requested that an executive assistant be present, Rogers refused. Polloni went to open the door but Rogers was “now screaming at him” and as the other executive assistant approached, Rogers slammed the door shut, “nearly crushing (Polloni’s) hand in the door.”

During the argument, the suit alleges, that Rogers was so close to him “that spittle from her mouth landed on his face.”

Later that day, Polloni would be informed he was being terminated and he could take the option of resigning or face being fired, according to the lawsuit.

Polloni also claims that Rogers made comments about his weight, made comments about his family members’ sexuality and political beliefs and made “derogatory comments” about his religious beliefs.

Rogers has not responded to a request for comment. The state declined to comment.

“We don’t comment on pending litigation,” Megan Rose, ADOA spokeswoman said in an email to the Mirror when reached for comment about the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is also looping in the state as a party to the lawsuit for wrongful termination, saying that Polloni was wrongfully terminated by Rogers and the state for following ADOA guidelines for COVID-19 exposure.

“Mr. Polloni is seeking justice for the horrendous behavior of Wendy Rogers as well as the State of Arizona,” former Arizona legislator and co-counsel for Polloni Adam Kwasman said in a statement to the Mirror. “We are confident that, especially in light of recently-upheld awards against the State for wrongful termination, Arizona jurors will not tolerate continued abuse of State employees by either elected officials or administrators.”

Polloni had also filed a $500,000 notice of claim against the state in March, which is often seen as the precursor to a lawsuit. Polloni has also filed an EEOC complaint and a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General Civil Rights Division, the lawsuit states.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.