A former Tacoma city auditor has filed a wrongful-termination claim against the city, contending she was fired for uncovering and reporting alleged mismanagement at Tacoma Rail.
Scottie Lynn Nix, 60, filed the claim Thursday. She seeks $420,000 in damages for wrongful termination, retaliatory discharge, violation of free speech and breach of contract.
“The city’s misconduct has harmed Ms. Nix in the form of wage losses past and future as well as emotional injury from the insult of wrongful termination for disclosing waste of government resources,” her claim states.
The city has 60 days to respond or face a possible lawsuit.
Attempts to reach city spokeswoman Gwen Schuler for comment were unsuccessful Monday.
Tacoma Rail, which the city owns, provides rail freight service in the South Sound.
“While we are a public agency, we are self-funded through freight rates, associated fees and property leases,” the agency states on its website.
The city in the recent past has subsidized the operation of the agency’s Mountain Rail Division with loans from the general fund, and state auditors warned city officials earlier this year that the railroad might never be able to repay the more than $6 million borrowed from city coffers.
Nix’s attorney, Joan Mell, said her client was targeted for layoff by then-acting City Manager Rey Arellano after she uncovered information that allegedly showed Tacoma Rail officials had improperly donated city money to local charities, paid for some railroad employees to enter a golf tournament on city time and practiced sloppy recordkeeping that could lead to abuse.
Nix was notified Dec. 5, 2011, that she was to be laid off Jan. 6, 2012, according to a city letter. Mell said her client had been reporting her findings in the months before receiving the layoff notice.
“She’d been speaking out all along,” Mell said Monday.
Nix said she issued a formal report on some of her findings Dec. 28, 2011, and was preparing to release a second report the next day when Arellano placed her on paid administrative leave until her layoff date.
Arellano left city employment in May.firstname.lastname@example.org