Former Santa Fe city worker files whistleblower suit

September 1, 2018

A former city finance employee says top City Hall brass fired her when she raised concerns about an internal directive to “quit digging” on past-due parking balances and simply write them off.

Becky Casper, who had worked for the city since 2015 until her firing last month, filed the whistleblower complaint in District Court this week, claiming city officials retaliated against her after she reported the “accounting improprieties” over the summer. She contends officials took away her work responsibilities and barred her from other tasks.

Casper, who was the city fiscal administrator, was fired effective Aug. 24, according to her complaint. She was told her dismissal was “not [due to her] performance or qualifications,” but instead because of the “change in city leadership,” her complaint states. Changes in city leadership began after the mayoral election in March.

In her complaint, Casper reported that Krystle Hernandez, a financial analyst and a “functional lead” of the city’s multimillion-dollar enterprise and resource planning project, an expensive and occasionally controversial software overhaul, said she had been instructed to “quit digging” into overdue parking tickets.

Hernandez had been “reconciling past due” balances, according to the complaint, when Assistant Finance Director Teresita Garcia and IT software specialist Felix Herrera “told [Hernandez] to forward it into one lump sum and write it off,” Hernandez said to Casper, the complaint states.

Casper took her concerns about the alleged parking ticket write-off to Deputy City Manager Renée Martínez and City Manager Erik Liztenberg. Four days after Casper said she spoke to Litzenberg, she was stripped of her ability to manage the finance director’s calendar, and her daily tasks were removed from her purview, according to the complaint.

Finance Director Mary McCoy then “refused to communicate” with Casper after July 18, Casper’s complaint states.

Litzenberg, Martínez and McCoy declined to comment through a city spokesman, Matt Ross, who wrote in an email, “We are not able to comment on litigation.” Santa Fe city officials generally opt not to comment on legal matters involving city government, nor do they comment on individual “personnel” concerns.

Casper’s lawyer, commenting on her behalf, said the case had not yet been served on the city. Attorney Dan Faber said Casper was “told to leave it alone” in her conversations with Martínez and Litzenberg.

“They’re saying it was a political matter, that they could fire her because there’s a new administration, because they could, but the timing of it looks like that’s not really the case,” Faber said.

The complaint states Casper is seeking reinstatement in her post, back pay with interest, compensation for damages, including emotional distress, and litigation costs.

She unsuccessfully applied to be city clerk when Mayor Alan Webber opened all classified positions shortly after his election, according to job applications viewed by The New Mexican. The incumbent clerk, Yolanda Vigil, was retained on a one-year contract.

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