Portland's fired chief administrative officer, Jack Graham, followed through with an implied threat that came along an awkward "name-clearing" hearing last month where he attempted to give his side of the story.
His attorney has filed a formal notice (pdf) that Graham plans to sue the city over his dismissal—accusing officials of ignoring his due process rights and also engaging in racial discrimination and defamation. Attorney Dana Sullivan emailed the tort claim notice to reporters earlier this afternoon.
Graham was told he'd be fired last November, after a handful of controversies—including a high-profile Oregonian story about a 2012 attempt to transfer $200,000 from utility reserve funds into the city's general fund. Graham has argued the transfer, if it went through, would have been legal and has pointed to a past example of such a transfer.
The racial discrimination accusations are among the most stinging. They're also not unexpected. As I noted in my column after the name-clearing hearing (which pretty accurately presaged the nature of Graham's claims), Graham, who is African American had made some of those assertions when talking to an outside investigator hired to probe his 2012 fund transfer plan.
He singles out Commissioner Amanda Fritz and says his race played a part in her push to lift the city budget office out of the Office of Management and Finance. His lawyer says she can prove it during discovery... a big claim. (That plan was actually meant to lift the budget office out of the mayor's sole control—so it couldn't be used politically during budget negotiations.) Fritz declined to comment when the Mercury phoned her office.
Graham also mentions Fritz alongside Commissioners Steve Novick and Nick Fish, angry over comments they gave to the Oregonian when it reported on his dismissal and on his plan to transfer the utility reserve cash. Because, he contends, his actions weren't illegal or against policy—their strong comments amount to defamation.
And while also lays out much of the same arguments he made in his name-clearing hearing—that his underlings who blew the whistle on his planned transfer never told him it was against policy—he's also accused the city of stacking the deck at that hearing. He says Novick, Fritz, Fish, and human resources director Anna Kanwit weren't allowed to speak.
Graham intends to sue the city for damages—and also seek the same from Novick, Fish, and Fritz individually.