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Fired HR Director Debi Humann Files Complaint Alleging Wrongful Termination Was Retaliation

Attorney for Debi Humann, fired by Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper last month, says her departure was the result of providing data on an employee to State Auditor's office.

Debi Humann, the former Human Resources director for the City of Edmonds, filed a written complaint today with Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper.

Humann alleges that she was wrongfully terminated from her job on September 22 in retaliation for providing documents detailing improper payroll practices to the Washington State Auditor, and for her required participation into the ensuing auditor’s investigation that resulted from an anonymous complaint.

came almost immediately upon the heels of her advising the mayor of her participation in the investigation, says her attorney, Cliff Freed of Frank Freed Subit & Thomas in Seattle, in a news release. In his termination notice, the release said, Mayor Cooper stated that Humann was being terminated because he “no longer had confidence in [her] ability to do the job and to work effectively with [him].”

Humann had worked for the City of Edmonds for 12 years in various HR capacities, and had served as Human Resources director since 2008.

Freed said the issue leading to her reporting to the State Auditor arose after a number of employees raised concerns with  Humann regarding another employee, who had worked previously with the mayor and was hired by him shortly after he was appointed. That employee has been , who is now on paid administrative leave after resigning on Sept. 22.

The general concern expressed by the other employees, said Freed, was that the new employee was drawing a substantial salary but was rarely present at work and had not submitted appropriate documentation supporting the payroll expense. In addition, Freed said, she was given unearned vacation time and sick leave by Cooper in contravention of existing City policies.

Said Humann:  “As my former position as HR Director requires, when allegations of violations are brought to my attention, I am required to take appropriate action. This action included informing the mayor, on several occasions, of the situation and requesting appropriate remedy.”

Cole has said that in her job with the City of Edmonds, who answered only to Cooper. As part of that designation, Cole says she was not required to keep time records.

Humann’s complaint is filed in connection with the Local Government Employee Whistleblower Protection Act, RCW 42.41.050.Through that process, she is entitled to have a hearing before a state administrative law judge, who may award her back pay, attorneys’ fees and costs and reinstatement to her job.

The judge may also award personal monetary penalties against Cooper,  Freed said.

“I look forward to having the facts come out through the report that will be issued by the State Auditors’ Office, and through the processes allowed for in city policies,” said Humann. “I am confident that the process will show that I acted at all times in the best interests of the citizens of Edmonds, that I rigorously followed the law and that my termination was a direct result of reporting the wrongdoing and misuse of City funds that was evident to so many people at City Hall.”

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