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Trimble v. Board of County Commissioners of Tulsa County

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

April 18, 2017

(1) TOM D. TRIMBLE, Plaintiff,
v.
(1) BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS of TULSA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA, (2) KAREN KEITH, and (3) RON PETERS, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          TERENCE C. KERN United States District Judge

         Before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint With Prejudice filed by Defendants, Board of County Commissioners of Tulsa County, Oklahoma (“BOCC”), Commissioner Karen Keith (“Keith”), and Commissioner Ron Peters (“Peters”) (collectively, “Defendants”) (Doc. 15).

         I. Factual Allegations[1]

         Plaintiff Tom D. Trimble (“Plaintiff” or “Trimble”) began working for the Tulsa County Information Technology Department (“IT Department”) in 1991. In 2003, Plaintiff was promoted to IT Manager. Under his management, the IT Department received numerous accolades and awards.

         In 2011, the United States Department of Homeland Security's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (“CRCL”) audited the Tulsa County Jail's (“Jail”) medical system. CRCL found deficiencies with the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office (“TCSO”) medical record system and found that it “us[ed] a homegrown system of records that ‘fails to utilize what we have learned in the past 20 years.'” (Compl. ¶ 13 (quoting ICE-CRCL Report, 9/29/11) (emphasis in original).) Around the same time, multiple civil rights lawsuits were filed against TCSO and the Jail's contract medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc. (“CHC”), arising from the deaths of inmates at the Jail. Subsequently, Tulsa County and TCSO, with input from the IT Department, decided to replace CHC as the Jail's medical provider.

         The new medical provider at the Jail, Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. (“Armor”), planned to implement a new electronic medical records system. Although changing the medical records system was “a difficult process requiring significant IT expertise and manpower” (Compl. ¶ 18), Plaintiff “learned, early on, that he[] and the IT Department would not be a part of the records system transition” (id. ¶ 19). Plaintiff received an email from the Director of the Tulsa County Purchasing Department, Linda Dorrell (“Dorrell”), stating that Armor would use its own IT staff and that TSCO Undersheriff Tim Albin (“Albin”) “doesn't think you need to be involved” in the medical records transition. (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff responded in an email to Dorrell that his team “only need[ed] to be involved with the medical system if they intend to connect to [the Tulsa County] network.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff later learned that Armor did in fact intend to connect to Tulsa County's network, which Plaintiff believed “raised serious concerns, ” because “if Armor was to connect to the County's system, without any involvement from the IT Department, it would compromise the safety of County data and systems, ” including inmate medical information. (Id. ¶ 22.) The new medical records system was scheduled to “go live” on November 1, 2013. Beginning that day and through January of 2014, Plaintiff sent several written communications to various officials within Tulsa County and TCSO. These written communications, which are quoted extensively in his Complaint, are set forth below.

         Email to Commissioners, Albin, and Dorrell

         On November 1, 2013, viewing the installation of the Armor system as a “‘crisis' situation, ” (id. ¶ 23), Plaintiff sent an email explaining his concerns to Albin, Dorrell, Keith, Peters, and a third Tulsa County Commissioner, John Smaligo (“Smaligo”) (“Email to Commissioners, Albin, and Dorrell”). The email stated:

My department heard about the new telemedicine contract for the first time less than a month ago. Tim Albin quickly assured Linda Dorrell and I that the chosen company had their own separate system so my department did not need to be involved.
knowing they overlooked a fairly important aspect of their job function

         Per their communications below, they want 12 laptops to reside on Tulsa County's production network that did not get purchased through my office. This is totally different than the understood needs of the project and is in total conflict with county policy. To protect county-wide operations, I can't allow non-county devices to connect anywhere on our production network. It would put every department in the county at risk.

***
My immediate recommendation would be that we get a config out today for the remaining ten laptops. ... Just like you and I discussed the other day, my department really needs to be included from the beginning to avoid these kind of recurring last minute crisis. Likewise, I feel the new company really dropped the ball on this one and should have been totally upfront with you about their full operational needs.

(Id. (emphasis in original).)

         Email to Albin

         Plaintiff alleges that in response to his November 1, 2013 email, Albin threatened IT Department staff, including Plaintiff. On November 2, 2013, Plaintiff sent an email to Albin (“Email to Albin”) stating:

Respectfully, my staff was (very) upset yesterday because they were repeatedly told if someone died [at the Jail], we would be held liable. I find this offensive, threatening, and totally inappropriate. The true liability rests on the medical company for waiting until the day of go-live to bring up new requirements, and on you for excluding us from a project that clearly involves the use of technology.
We sincerely want to help you guys and provide the best support possible, but we need to be treated as part of the team and not as last minute emergency responders.

(Id. ¶ 24 (emphasis in original).) The IT Department then went to work as “last minute emergency responders . . . to correct the serious deficiencies with Armor's system integration with the County's system” (id. ¶ 25), and Plaintiff subsequently encountered more challenges (id. ¶ 26).

         Email ...


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