AP NEWS

State dismisses whistleblower case against Downtown Roseburg Association by former director Alyssa McConnel

April 10, 2019

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Civil Rights Division has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Downtown Roseburg Association by Alyssa McConnel, former executive director of the association.

The “complaint filed with the Civil Rights Division has been dismissed because the Division did not have sufficient evidence to continue our investigation,” read a January letter from the Division to McConnel.

In her complaint, McConnel said the association retaliated against her for protected whistleblowing activities by firing her in April 2018 after she raised concerns over how the City of Roseburg used funds collected by ParkSmart, which contracts with the association for downtown parking enforcement.

The city gives the association $22,000 per year, and ParkSmart turns over the parking fees it collects to the city.

In March, McConnel outlined her concerns to association board members by sending messages in a closed massage group. McConnel stopped raising her concerns at the board’s request, but she was fired a few weeks later.

″(McConnel) alleged she was concerned about the parking revenue that (the association) was ‘kicking back’ to the city with no discernable consideration, and she raised concerns regarding noncompliance with their contracts,” read a complaint dismissal memo from Stacy Shaw Shahak, investigator with the Bureau of Labor and Industries.

The association denies any misconduct related to parking revenue, according to the memo. It fired McConnel because she failed to “maintain productive relationships” with board members, city officials and others, the memo states. The association also said McConnel made “repeated public derogatory and baseless comments regarding the city,” according to the memo.

While her concerns were made in good faith, the memo said, ”(McConnel’s) allegations regarding the contract lend some legitimacy to (the association’s) assertion that (she) did not have a thorough understanding of the contracts she was criticizing.”

The burden of proof fell on McConnel to provide substantial evidence her harms are causally linked to her protected whistleblowing activity.

McConnel said Tuesday she was unable to prove her case in part because she was unable to acquire sufficient financial records from the city regarding the association’s contract, budget and use of funds.

The deadline to appeal the Bureau of Labor and Industries dismissal is Monday, April 15.

The association declined to comment on the dismissal because the appeal deadline has not passed.