Suit: Ex-Atlanta treasurer fired for refusing to follow “improper, illegal” orders
5:09 pm, March 29th, 2012
UPDATE: DeFoor told the Daily Report on Friday that she has also retained legal counsel, although she declined to say whether she was considering litigation regarding her own termination. Her attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.
A whistleblower suit filed Wednesday in Fulton County Superior Court says Atlanta Director of Treasury Services Edward Tuohy was terminated last year after refusing to follow superiors’ repeated orders to violate city guidelines and transfer funds into and out of accounts, without proper documentation, and invoice accounts that should not have been billed.
Tuohy was fired Oct. 12, according to the suit, after he refused to transfer money from a city fund without telling that fund’s finance chief, despite being ordered to do so by his boss, Chief Finance Officer Joya DeFoor. (Although the suit does not mention it, DeFoor was herself terminated without explanation five days after Tuohy was cashiered. There was no immediate response to a telephone message left at a number listed as belonging to DeFoor.)
According to the complaint, Tuohy was recruited for the city job in March 2011 and within a month or two was repeatedly instructed to “circumvent City financial guidelines and to book invoices without proper approval procedures and to book the invoices to accounts which should not have been charged.”
In addition to demanding that he engage in financial misconduct, the suit says, DeFoor and her deputy finance officer, Stefan Jaskulak, ignored advice that could have saved the city hefty sums. In one case, it says, he pointed out that the city maintained cash balances exceeding $1 billion in accounts that earned “virtually no interest” and complained about the “millions of dollars in lost income.”
In response, according to the complaint, Jaskulak told Tuohy he “shouldn’t worry because the City Council has its head so far up its ass that they wouldn’t know what the actual cash balances were.”
The situation came to head, it says, when DeFoor ordered him to pay $50,000 to a Los Angeles consulting company from the city’s Watershed Management account without telling the account’s finance chief despite knowing that it was “improper and probably illegal to do so.”
Shorty after Tuohy told Jaskulak he would not comply with the order, he was terminated.
The suit says Tuohy’s superiors refused to tell him why he was fired, and that Open Record Act requests for emails and documentation relating to his employment or termination have gone largely unanswered.
Tuohy’s attorney, Gary R. Kessler of Irvin & Kessler, said his client remains unemployed and has received “not a penny” from the city in severance.
Kessler said he has been in contact with the city, but has not been able to get the records he’s seeking concerning Tuohy’s performance or termination
“The principal thrust is emails and documents showing Mr. Tuohy was being asked to do improper and unethical things,” Kessler said. “I added an Open Record Act count, because I’m entitled to those records.”
Deputy City Attorney Eric Richards said his office was familiar with the case and complaint.
“At this point,” he said, “our only comment is that we think the allegations have no merit and we will defend the lawsuit.”