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Civil rights suit filed against Poulsbo

POULSBO — A former city employee has filed a lawsuit against the City of Poulsbo, former Mayor Donna Jean Bruce and Finance Director Nanci Lien after his termination in August 2004.

In the suit filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Tacoma, Dennis Bouffiou alleges that he was excluded from an employee evaluation group, which the suit states “dissolved without accomplishing anything but to harass Mr. Bouffiou.”

Subsequently, Bouffiou filed a formal complaint against Lien on Oct. 28, 2003, for “bringing his honesty and integrity into question,” concerning mileage reimbursement for his attendance at the Pacific Northwest Public Purchasing Association conference in Montana, which was pre-approved by then-Finance Director Donna Bjorkman.

Following that complaint, the suit states that Bouffiou was told his information technology duties were being reassigned and that he would work in the public works department, even though he had done nothing wrong.

One day after Lien was named the new finance director, Bouffiou met with Mayor Bruce and City Attorney Scott Snyder regarding his complaint against Lien.

According to the document, Snyder said that “although ... the complaint ... was found to be factually correct, it did not rise to the level of disciplinary action being taken.”

On July 21, 2004, after the onset of the city’s process study, the city council’s finance committee eliminated Bouffiou’s position. He was on vacation at the time. However, Bouffiou alleges that the consultant told him that he had not recommended Bouffiou’s removal from the finance department.

When Bouffiou returned from vacation on August 2, 2004, he was told his position was eliminated and that he could take a test for a half-time accounting position. He finished second on the test but his employment with the city was terminated on August 31, 2004.

While Bouffiou’s complaint paints one picture of the events leading up to his dismissal, the city’s response, which was filed on Nov. 30, 2005 disputes his claims and requests immediate dismal of the suit.

The city admits that the employee efficiency group was formed but states that “the purchasing department was merely one of the issues the group discussed because of lack of performance in that department was a concern.”

Concerning Bouffiou’s complaint against Lien, the city denies that his interpretation of the events is correct and notes that the city requested an independent investigation of the complaint.

That investigation “found no city policies had been violated and confirmed addressing issues during the approval process of an employee expense requests was specifically part of Ms. Lien’s job duties,” the counterclaim states.

The city also goes on to admit that Bouffiou’s position changed as a result of an outside consultant’s study of the performance and efficiency issues the city was trying to address at a time of significant budget cuts.

The report “recommended his role as purchasing agent be eliminated, since there was no longer a need for this position,” the document states.

In its conclusions the city states, “Plaintiff’s own lack of job performance, combined with fiscal reductions provide a bona fide business reason to support the City’s decision to eliminate a position that no longer provided a valuable service to the city, its current organizational structure or the citizens.”

In its counterclaim, the city is requesting that it “be awarded reasonable costs, fees and consequential damages as a result of the counterclaims asserted here, or based on any other applicable legal or equitable principles.”

The city also requested that the suit be dismissed. However, the city has not filed a motion for immediate dismal, meaning that no further action will occur in the suit until after a joint status report is filed in February.

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