Sunday, May 26, 2013

Legal aid lawyer fired amid turmoil at agency

Elizabeth Boyle, right, with Gina Ruiz.
Legal aid lawyer fired amid turmoil at agency
By Lee Williams
May 22, 2013

SARASOTA - Elizabeth Boyle, the longtime head of Gulfcoast Legal Services' Sarasota office, has been fired, four months after she filed a federal age discrimination complaint against the new executive director of the St. Petersburg-based nonprofit.

Boyle, 54, says her firing stems from her refusal to drop a case involving a 29-year-old quadriplegic.

"I was told I was being disciplined because I had opened a case after being told to reject it," Boyle said. "This young, single mom needed help. I would make the same decision again."

Boyle and other Gulfcoast attorneys provide free legal advice about foreclosures, family law — including domestic violence and emergency protection orders — paternity and child-custody cases, elder law, immigration and more.

The nonprofit has about 34 paid staff members and offices in five cities.

Boyle grew Gulfcoast's Sarasota office into a legal powerhouse with the help of a few staff attorneys and more than a dozen experienced volunteers — mostly retired lawyers who provided their legal expertise for free.

Before she fired Boyle, Gulfcoast's new executive director, Kathleen M. Mullin, got rid of the volunteers, which prompted Boyle to file her age discrimination complaint.

"Volunteers have rights, too," Boyle said. "They are covered under the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967."

Mullin declined to be interviewed for this story, insisting on written questions delivered by email.

"As someone with ample experience with the press, I have a rule as well that I do not grant telephone interviews with reporters who appear to have formulated a hostile story line," Mullin wrote. "Email provides me the opportunity that what I say is accurately captured and relayed." Read more here

Hat Tip to the Matt Weidner blog

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