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Lawyer for WSDOT whistleblower fires back in response to ‘motion to dismiss’

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(The Center Square) – The legal team representing a former Washington State Department of Transportation employee who filed a whistleblower complaint against WSDOT and the Governor’s Office of Financial Management, is responding to a request to dismiss the suit.

Jackson Maynard, Citizen Action Defense Fund executive director, is the attorney for the former employee, Scott Smith.

As previously reported by The Center Square, Smith is a former economist with WSDO. He claims he faced hostility and retaliation after refusing to keep quiet about his calculations last year showing Washington’s cap-and-trade program under the CCA, would increase gas prices by 45 to 50 cents per gallon.

Smith claims he was pressured by OFM and WSDOT to change the numbers in his reports indicating the state’s climate change laws were significantly impacting fuel prices.

He filed a lawsuit in March claiming whistleblower retaliation, wrongful termination and negligence.

Maynard challenges media reports after the DOT investigators report came out, that suggested the findings concluded Smith doesn’t have a legitimate case.

“You actually have to read the report, not just the executive summary that says we didn’t find a preponderance of evidence,” he said in a Friday interview with The Center Square. “That’s legal mumbo jumbo which people can disagree with, but what you can’t disagree on is on key points of what my client says happened to him. DOT witnesses that were interviewed by their own paid investigator, corroborated substantial parts of that claim.”

The attorney said many of the statements actually corroborated what his client stated in the suit.

“There were witnesses that admitted that there was a debate about whether the numbers should be included in the report at the time he (Smith) said he was being pressured … They corroborated that he was denied a promotion and that his supervisors changed. They corroborated that he was never granted the leave request to visit his elderly mother out of state,” Maynard said.

The 91-page report’s executive summary said in part that “Smith’s perceptions of events….. are significantly different in many respects from the descriptions of events provided by the witnesses who were interviewed.”

“Some of the witnesses say they don’t remember,” said Maynard, “but not remembering is not the same thing as saying it didn’t happen.”

Maynard was especially taken aback that the interviews weren’t recorded.

“Given how important this was and the significance of it, the better course would have been to record the interview, so there’s no dispute about what was said and wasn’t said.”

Representatives from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office and WSDOT said recording witnesses in these situations isn’t common.

“Each agency might be a little different, but on the whole it is not common for investigators to record witness interviews,” the Inslee representative said Friday.

A spokesperson from WSDOT said on Friday that the agency does not record any investigatory interviews.

“Investigation participants were given an opportunity to review and approve their statements for accuracy and provide any missing details prior to a fact-finding report being written.”

The hearing on WSDOT and OFM’s Motion to Dismiss Smith’s lawsuit is set to take place in Thurston County Superior Court on June 21 at 9am. It will be open to the public either in person or via Zoom.

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