City of Dallas receives tort claim notice seeking $1.5 million

On May 21 Dallas received a "wrongful termination" tort claim from former employee Jason Locke.

DALLAS — Former Dallas community development director Jason Locke sent notice to the city of Dallas that he may sue for “wrongful termination” and accuses city officials of violation of ethics and public meetings laws.

Locke sent the tort claim notice to the city on May 21. His employment with the city was terminated on Dec. 20, 2017.

The notice says Locke seeks $1.5 million in damages plus attorney’s fees.

Locke accuses the Dallas City Council, Mayor Brian Dalton, City Manager Greg Ellis and City Attorney Lane Shetterly of conspiracy to violate the Dallas City Charter when the city approved a reorganization that eliminated the community development department and his position.

“The foregoing persons did so knowingly in a wholly unprofessional and unethical manner, while Locke was on a scheduled vacation, with no notice, ability or opportunity to defend or otherwise speak on his own behalf,” the notice read. “Locke was therefore denied all due process in this matter.”

The notice states that Ellis, who was the interim city manager at the time, was granted the job permanently as a reward for completing the reorganization.

A second charge in the notice claims the Councilor Paul Trahan “while acting in his capacity as a representative for numerous developers as clients with ongoing or proposed projects in the city of Dallas, did in fact coerce and seek to influence, both directly and indirectly in his capacity as a city councilor, Community Development Director Jason Locke and other city staff, to approve projects, remove or revise or ignore conditions of approval for projects or aspects of projects, and that these actions accrued direct financial benefit to Trahan and his clients and associates.”

Locke asserts those actions were a violation of state ethics laws and an actual conflict of interest.

“The actions that resulted in the termination of Locke were promulgated by Trahan, in concert with Mayor Brian Dalton among others, in order to further his financial interests and the interests of his clients and in retaliation for Locke’s refusal to participate in said coercion.”

The notice states that Locke took concerns regarding Trahan to Shetterly and former city manager Ron Foggin at least five times. Two times he was dissuaded from filing an ethics complaint, the notice said.

The third claim listed is that certain members of the council violated Oregon’s public meetings laws “by improperly communicating with and among each other on public city business via private email accounts and text messaging.”

Lastly, the tort claim states that it serves as notice to Ellis, Dalton, Trahan and Council President Micky Garus “to preserve and maintain” all private account emails, text messages, and all other communications related to city of Dallas business not conducted on their official city email accounts.

Dallas Human Resources Manager Emily Gagner said the city does not comment on pending litigation.

According to state statutes, a tort claim notice must be filed within 180 days of the alleged wrongful termination. If a lawsuit is filed, that must happen within two years of the termination.

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