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Former Langley worker files $4.5 million damage claim against city

LANGLEY — A public works employee who was laid off last year as the city began trimming its budget has filed a $4.5 million damage claim against Langley.

Frank Sullivan, who worked as a public works field supervisor for the city, blamed the mayor’s office for “wrongful termination” when he was let go on Oct. 29, 2010. The damage claim, filed with the city on March 4, was released by city officials on Monday in response to a public records request made by the Record. A damage claim is a necessary first step before a lawsuit can be filed.

Mayor Paul Samuelson declined to comment on the claim, which was filed by Bellevue-based attorney David Williams.

“It’s potential litigation and I can’t talk about that,” Samuelson said.

Sullivan could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In addition to wrongful termination, the claim for damages also notes “emotional distress” and “substantial loss of wages/benefits.”

City officials were looking at a potential layoff in the public works department as part of proposed 2011 budget cuts in the city’s parks, streets and cemetery funds.

According to a memo marked “confidential” sent to Samuelson from Public Works Director Challis Stringer on Oct. 20, Stringer said Sullivan’s position was unnecessary for a city of Langley’s size. She also said Sullivan’s position was redundant because she had the responsibility of supervising employees.

Stringer also criticized Sullivan for performance issues, and said other employees were better trained at working with the city’s water and wastewater treatment systems.

The mayor notified Sullivan, 67, of his termination on Oct. 26. Samuelson said the continued decline in city revenues last year made the move necessary.

“Frank, I greatly appreciate your contributions, dedication and service for the past 15 years to the city, as well as the entire community. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors,” Samuelson said in the termination letter.

According to documents released by the city, the claim has been turned over to the city’s insurance provider, the Association of Washington Cities.

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