Debi Humann awarded back pay

Jul 25, 2013

It took a couple of years, but former Edmonds Human Resources Director Debi Humann finally got her back pay.

An Administrative Law Judge has awarded Humann $91,177 for back pay and legal costs, but Humann’s share of the judgment is just $31,000. The rest goes to pay for legal fees to the court and her attorneys from Frank Freed Subit & Thomas.

Humann was fired from her position Sept. 23, 2011, after working 13 years for the city. Mayor Mike Cooper fired her, saying he “could not trust her.”

She was rehired a few months later but let go shortly after.

Humann filed a whistleblower claim, saying she was wrongfully terminated.

Her lawsuit says, “Plaintiff Debi Humann brings this action for violation of her due process rights and defamation against Defendants the City of Edmonds and former Edmonds Mayor Michael Cooper.

“Defendant Cooper made stigmatizing and defamatory statements about Ms. Humann in connection with Ms. Humann’s termination from her position as Human Resources Director for the City of Edmonds.

“The stigmatizing and defamatory statements by Defendant Cooper have not only caused Ms. Humann emotional distress, but they have also caused substantial harm to Ms. Humann’s reputation in the community and in her profession and have caused her to lose employment opportunities.”

The lawsuit claimed that prior to Humann being fired, she disclosed to Mayor Cooper that she was cooperating in an investigation with the Washington State Auditor’s Office about timesheet misrepresentations by Kimberly Cole, Cooper’s executive assistant.

“The outcome of the investigation risked implicating the Mayor in potential misconduct because he approved the timesheets in question,” the lawsuit states.

“Ms. Humann had reported similar information about improper governmental action to the Mayor, but he failed to take adequate action to stop the alleged misrepresentations, which appeared to have been ongoing over many months.

“We commend the City of Edmonds for accepting a judgment against it for Debi’s wrongful termination by former Mayor Michael Cooper,” attorney Cliff Freed said. “The Administrative Law Judge confirmed the order of back pay and awarded Debi her attorney’s fees, costs, and interest.

Freed said he was looking forward to “clearing Humann’s name and vindicating her whistleblower activities in the federal lawsuit (which is scheduled for late next year.)

“Humann had a stellar performance record as Human Resources Director. She was trying to do what was right.

“Months after she was fired, the City reinstated her and then almost immediately laid her off claiming it lacked funding for the HR Director position.

“The City must explain why, with over 200 employees, the council voted to eliminate funding for only one position—Debi’s position— when she had just filed a whistleblower claim seeking reinstatement for wrongful termination,” Freed said.

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