Tort claims notice charges retaliation for whistle blowing

The former head of Portland emergency preparedness planning programs has filed notice that she intends to sue the city for violating state whistle blowing laws.

A lawyer representing Lisa Vasquez filed the tort claim notice on Nov. 8. 2011. Lawyer Mitra Shahri claims Vasquez was fired for repeatedly challenging inappropriate and wasteful spending associated with city programs intended to update its emergency preparedness systems.

• Click here to read the tort claim letter.

Among other things, the notice says Vasquez was fired for questioning why the city was renting high-end Class A office space for employees involved in such projects, and why the city renewed an office supply contracts that seemed overly expensive.

Commissioner Randy Leonard fired Vasquez from her job as director of the Public Safety Systems Revitalization Project on June 24, 2011. Although Leonard criticized her management abilities, the tort claim notice says her dismissal was in retaliation for her complaints, contrary to state whistle blower protection laws.

The firing made news earlier this year after Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner accused Leonard of firing Vasquez for complaining about mismanagement of the replace 9-1-1 dispatch system. That issue is not mentioned in the tort claim notice, however.

A tort claim notice is the first step in the process of suing a government body for alleged wrongdoing. The city is not required to respond at this point.

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