OAKLAND -- The chances of winning a financial windfall from the city of Oakland for an alleged wrongful termination are quickly dwindling for former city administrator Deborah Edgerly.
About a year after an Alameda County jury rejected Edgerly's claims that she was fired because of gender discrimination, a state appeals court ruled this week that she cannot pursue a claim based on the state's whistle-blower law.
Edgerly sued the city in 2009 after she was fired on July, 1, 2008, by former Mayor Ron Dellums, claiming she lost her job because she was a woman and because she refused to approve city reimbursement for three questionable expenses sought by Dellums.
Dellums had asked for the city to pay his wife's cellphone bill, utility bills at his private home and overtime for his personal driver.
Edgerly's firing, however, came in the midst of allegations that she interfered with a police investigation of her nephew William Lovan, who police suspected was a member of the West Oakland Acorn gang.
During a trial in 2009, Dellums testified that he did not fire Edgerly because of the investigation but did so because she stopped communicating with him after she withdrew from a previous agreement to retire.
While a trial court judge allowed Edgerly's claim of gender discrimination to proceed to a jury trial, the judge denied her request to have the jury decide if she was fired because she refused to approve city reimbursement
Edgerly claimed she should be protected under the state's whistle-blower law because, by rejecting the expenses, she was essentially refusing to allow Dellums to violate the city charter.
But in it's ruling published Wednesday, the state's court of appeal ruled that her actions were not covered by the whistle-blower law because Dellums was not attempting to violate a state law or rule.
Instead, the court ruled, Edgerly's claim that she refused to have the city reimburse Dellums was simply part of her routine work and not a protected action under the state law.
"Edgerly's argument is that as she routinely acted on each city official's expense reimbursement requests, each rejection constituted a per se violation of (the whistle-blower law), no matter how trivial or routine each rejection was," the court wrote. "This interpretation strains logic and, if adopted, could have serious impacts on the workings of the City and other charter cities." In addition, the court found, Edgerly's claim that she refused the payments was wrong because evidence showed she "actually approved two of the three requests and referred the third request to the city attorney's office."
Edgerly could appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Her attorney, John Scott, did not return calls seeking comment.
The City Attorney's office declined to comment.