Cuccinelli camp pushes back against ex-employee's suit

Virginia attorney general and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is strongly pushing back against a former state assistant attorney general who has filed a lawsuit claiming she was fired for writing things on a Washington Post feedback forum that negatively reflected on her former boss.

Samantha Vanterpool filed the suit Friday in U.S. District Court against both Cuccinelli and his former top aide Charles James Jr.

Basically, she contends that even if she did write the posts in question, it’s a free-speech issue. She claims the only reason she was given for her departure was that she was in violation of the standards of conduct and media policy.

James told WJLA in an e-mail that “During my tenure, I was called on to make the final decisions on multiple personnel issues, and the circumstances surrounding Ms. Vanterpool’s resignation from the office were no exception,” he said. “At no time did I or anyone else in the office violate Ms. Vanterpool’s First Amendment rights.

“Finally, the suggestion that my leaving the office had anything to do with Ms. Vanterpool is utter fiction.”

Added Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein, also via e-mail: “The attorney general and his former chief deputy are passionate supporters of the First Amendment, and any suggestion by a disgruntled former employee to the contrary is patently absurd.”

The suit revolves around remarks in the comments section of a May 2012 Post story where the writer says Cuccinelli, who’s running for governor against Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, is an “egomaniac” and ran for AG to more or less advance his career. It also says James resigned because of the way he dealt with her.

Vanterpool, who could not be reached for comment, contends in her suit that she’s due $500,000 in compensatory damages, potential punitive damages, back pay and – not to forget – a return to her old job.