To the editor:
The Alexandria Times’ former reporter, Melissa Quinn, wrote an important story in the spring (“Former city employee wins whistleblower case,” April 11). Now there is more to the story: The city is appealing its loss in circuit court.
Henry Lewis, the project manager for the police headquarters, was fired by Jeremy McPike, director of general services, for doing his job. Lewis insisted on following procurement rules on the largest construction project ever undertaken by the city. According to court filings — including admissions by the city — McPike ignored proper procedures and signed off on invoices that didn’t comply with purchasing rules.
He also ignored Lewis’ concerns about expensive change orders being improperly billed outside the agreed-upon price with the contractor, spending taxpayer dollars that may not have been owed.
The city should be grateful for Lewis’ work and hold him up as a model for conscientious employees to emulate in protecting taxpayer funds. Instead, the city is appealing the decision of a jury that found McPike’s firing of Lewis to be illegal retaliation for whistleblowing.
City Hall already has spent considerable resources in staff time — as well as hiring outside experts and consultants — to support its case. That’s in addition to the judgment awarded to Lewis, which was completely in line with the whistleblower protection law.
City council should take this opportunity to lead and insist employees adhere to the laws designed to protect taxpayer funds instead of doubling down on a failed legal strategy to avoid liability for Lewis’ wrongful termination.
– Chris Marston