Former HR police chief Ludwig files suit against city

July 20, 2011

On July 7, former Hood River City Police Chief Bruce Ludwig and his attorney, Dana Sullivan, filed a lawsuit against the City of Hood River and his former supervisor, City Manager Bob Francis, for alleged unlawful employment practices.

Ludwig's suit articulates three claims for relief and a request for total compensation in the amount of $750,000, which covers monetary relief, punitive damages and attorney's fees and costs. The city and Francis were served complaint papers July 12.

When contacted for a response to the suit, Francis stated that the city does not comment on litigation matters.

Ludwig's suit alleges that an email dated April 9, 2011, in which Ludwig challenged a directive that Francis have given him regarding scheduling within the police department, triggered his May 13 placement on administrative leave and his subsequent termination May 27, 2011.

The first claim for relief outlined in the suit and directed against the City of Hood River cites a violation of ORS 659A.199, which precludes employers from retaliating for whistle blowing.

The second claim, against Francis specifically, cites a violation of ORS659A.030(I)(g), which precludes aiding and abetting retaliation.

The final claim against the city alleges wrongful discharge - noting that Ludwig's challenge to Francis' directive was made in a good faith effort to avoid violating his officer's collective bargaining agreement with the city. The claim notes that Ludwig was "acting in furtherance of a public policy of societal interest" and that the city acted wrongfully in terminating him for that action.

Each individual claim carries a request for $250,000 in compensation plus attorney fees and court costs.

In both the first and second claims, Ludwig also requests reinstatement to his former position. In the third claim, he also requests a jury trial.

"I am confident that a jury will find that I was fired because I objected to Bob Francis' directive that I change scheduling practices in the police department in a way that I believed to be inconsistent with state law," stated Ludwig via an email sent to the News.

In the April 9 email quoted in the lawsuit, Ludwig stated to Francis, in part, "I have concluded that to follow through with the proposed change … would also clearly violate multiple terms of the current collective bargaining agreement … It would be highly unethical for me to implement this change knowing that it would violate terms of the current agreement…"

Ludwig also noted in his suit that on May 13, Francis placed him on administrative leave and delivered to him a letter advising him that Francis was considering termination of his employment, effective May 31, 2011, because "it has become apparent that our management philosophies and objectives are incompatible."

Ludwig is claiming that his communications challenging Francis' directive (as a violation of the officers' collective bargaining agreement) becomes a protected activity under the whistleblower law and that the city is liable for violation of his protected actions under this law when it terminated him.

In a letter to the News, Ludwig's attorney alleges that her review of the case leads to a "conclusion that the city's decision (to terminate Ludwig) was retaliatory and unlawful."

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