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Lawyer fights against retaliation for Arizona prison workers in Florence gas incident

In this July 23, 2014, file photo, a fence surrounds the state prison in Florence, Arizona. (AP Photo/File)

PHOENIX — The lawyer for some Florence schoolkids has a simple request for Arizona’s attorney general in a case involving the Department of Corrections.

“That every single person who works for the prison – indirectly or directly – will not face retaliation for participating in the investigation or subsequent legal proceeding,” Don Cartier said.

Cartier represents 20 Florence Elementary students who got sick when crowd-control gas drifted over their playground in February. Employees at the Arizona State Prison were doing a training exercise with the gas.

Cartier’s firm has filed a notice of claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit filing. It lets potential parties to a lawsuit know that one may be filed.

Although the Department of Corrections would have ultimate hiring and firing abilities over State Prison employees, Cartier said he involved Attorney General Mark Brnovich as a professional courtesy.

“The [attorney general’s] office is going to defend the state, so we involve everybody in this matter,” Cartier said. “We involved the governor, and the Department of Corrections. And, because [ADOC] is a state entity, it’s their lawyer we’ll be dealing with.”

Richard Franco with the Florence Unified School District said none of the students were hospitalized.

Cartier said many of the children’s parents work with or for the Arizona State Prison.

“Many parents are faced with a conflict of interest,” he said during a press conference Thursday. “Between advocating for their children or, also, going against their employer.”

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said the office has responded to Cartier’s letter. The Department of Corrections has also notified employees they will not face retaliatory action if they decide to pursue legal action in the case.

KTAR has requested a copy of both letters.

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