By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – Kimberly Palmer, a former employee of the Denver City Attorney’s Office is threatening a lawsuit against her former employer and the people who were supposed to mentor her after learning she was targeted by those coworkers in disparaging, cruel and inappropriate emails and chat messages.

(credit: CBS)

“The conduct of the Denver City Attorney’s Office demonstrates shocking discriminatory actions at the highest levels of municipal government,” said Darren O’Connor and Jenipher Jones, attorneys representing Palmer.

The attorneys said what happened to Palmer was “horrible treatment she received at the hands of fellow attorneys,” and that City Attorney Kristin Bronson should have taken action “long before it hit the news.”

Earlier this week, a CBS4 Investigation revealed that three city attorneys — Eric Reece, Kristina Bush and Emily Reisdorph — sent each other and other employees hundreds of emails and chat messages on city communication systems as they worked from home in 2020 during the pandemic.

They disparaged bosses and coworkers, boasted about how little work they were doing or that they were goofing off, and discussed unauthorized use of a criminal history database.

But some of the most concerning online comments surrounded Palmer, who is Black and worked in the office from late 2019 through early 2020. The city attorneys were supposed to mentor Palmer during her tenure with the office.

But according to the internal communications obtained by CBS4, the three city attorneys celebrated Palmer suffering an apparent “nervous breakdown” and having to leave the office. The group called their online group the “Kimberly Killers.” When they learned of Palmer’s breakdown, Bush wrote that she was “satisfied. That’s the best news I’ve heard since quarantine. I feel so satisfied by this. I’ve been humming all morning. We sent her into a nervous breakdown. It was a team effort.” She then sent a gif displaying patting herself on the back, according to internal disciplinary records.

Reisdorph messaged Bush, ‘Yeah, you can’t take credit for that all on your own. We pushed her too far … we sent her into a nervous breakdown.” Bush said, “Because really, this is our doing.”

Reece wrote “Kristi, you caused her to have a nervous breakdown. We have a new champion.” According to internal documents Reece later wrote, “Ask Kimberly, I’m awful and only talk to pretty people.”

Palmer was unaware of the discussions until the CBS4 Investigation broke.

Reece and Bush resigned their positions in September 2020 during a personnel investigation. Reisdorph received a 15 day unpaid suspension but retained her job.

(credit: CBS)

“Attorney Reisdorph was tasked with training and mentoring Ms. Palmer, and instead participated in undermining and ridiculing her,” said Palmer’s lawyers.

In a demand letter sent this week to City Attorney Kristin Bronson, Palmer’s lawyers indicated they are considering suing for defamation, discrimination and outrageous conduct.

The City Attorney’s Office said in a written statement to CBS4, “The CAO deeply regrets the harm caused to Kimberly by the attorneys who should have been helping her succeed. As soon as it became aware of the appalling and offensive behavior of those attorneys, the CAO acted swiftly and decisively , consistent with its responsibilities as an employer.”

The inappropriate communications were discovered when one of the three prosecutors inadvertently included a supervisor in an email.

Palmer’s attorneys said they believe what has been uncovered indicates “a pattern, practice and a culture.” They are asking for reforms within the office and a monetary settlement for Palmer to “make her whole.”

Additional Resources

– Read the disciplinary letter issued to Emily Reisdorph.

– Read the letter sent to City Attorney’s Office this week by Palmer’s attorneys.

– Read the City Attorney’s Office full statement released Friday:

“This statement incorrectly asserts that the attorney who remains employed with the CAO was a supervisor.  Depending on their level of experience, non-supervisory attorneys in the CAO are classified as either “Assistant City Attorney – Senior,” “Assistant City Attorney – Associate,” or “Assistant City Attorney – Entry.”  Supervising attorneys are classified as either “Assistant City Attorney – Section Supervisor” or “Assistant City Attorney – Division Director.”  Ms. Reisdorph was (and still is) an “Assistant City Attorney – Senior,” as was Mr. Reece.  Ms. Bush was an “Assistant City Attorney – Entry.”  As a senior-level attorney, Ms. Reisdorph was expected to help train and mentor her less experienced and/or new colleagues, particularly in the courtrooms, but did not have any supervisory responsibilities.  The CAO deeply regrets the harm caused to Kimberly by the attorneys who should have been helping her succeed.  As soon as it became aware of the appalling and offensive behavior of those attorneys, the CAO acted swiftly and decisively, consistent with its responsibilities as an employer.”

“We cannot comment further on the specifics of this matter due to the threat of litigation.  However, we can state proudly that, in the two years that have passed, the CAO has worked incredibly hard to embed equity, diversity, and inclusion within our work.  One of our commitments is to be responsive to the unique challenges faced by people of color and all other identities who experience inequities.  We have held numerous EDI discussions to understand those challenges and barriers.  Our entire leadership team has attended the Race and Social Justice academy led by the office of Social Equity and Innovation, and the rest of our attorneys and staff members will be attending that academy later this year.  Lastly, the CAO has taken the more permanent action of hiring an EDI Administrator to support and advance our values.  We understand that this by no means the work is over, but we are committed to centering EDI in a way that is reflective in all the ways we operate.”

Brian Maass