Lori Tillery says in her claim, filed Nov. 1 with the City Attorney's Office, that she was the subject of a "well-orchestrated and unlawful campaign and pattern of practice designed to force her to resign or be demoted," and when that didn't work, she was fired on May 18.
Prior to her termination, Tillery states in her claim that she had been subjected to unlawful employment practices since July 2008, when she was tasked by Mayor Pat Morris to investigate suspected corruption at City Hall that included falsification of time cards, misuse of public funds and part-time employees working full-time hours with no benefits, for years.
The claim - a precursor to a lawsuit against a municipality - states that Tillery learned that city employees were using city-owned equipment and personnel for personal jobs and accepting payment that should have gone to the city. She reported her findings, both in writing and verbally, to Morris, then City Manager Charles McNeely and City Attorney James Penman. The San Bernardino Police Department also investigated and turned its findings over to the District Attorney's Office, according to the claim.
Tillery, who has also worked as the city's project manager and director of administrative services, subsequently found herself the target of an administraitve investigation, according to the claim.
On Feb. 15, McNeely, then Assistant City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller, who is now the city's interim city manager, and the city's director of information technology raided Tillery's office. They told Tillery they wanted to clone her hard drive because they were told there may be financial information stored on it that Tillery did not disclose to the city, the claim said.
Tillery, according to the claim, went on a doctor-approved medical leave the following day due to dangerously high blood pressure and to undergo surgery. She returned to work on May 2, only to be told she was being placed on administrative leave. City officials provided Tillery with no explanation as to why she was being placed on leave. On May 18, she was fired.
Tillery declined to comment for this story.
In a prepared statement, Tillery's attorney, Sanford Kassel, said Tillery was a faithful city employee who diligently carried out her duties, but became caught up in unethical employee conduct and an ongoing feud between Penman and Morris.
"Ms. Tillery was met with discrimination and retaliation for her findings," Kassel said. "City officials have wrongfully sought to disparage her reputation in order to discourage her from coming forward with the truth."
Penman on Wednesday said he had not yet seen or read Tillery's claim and was limited as to what he could comment on. He did say Tillery, to the best of his knowledge, never reported such allegations to him or his office.
"I'm not aware of her reporting any wrongdoing, just the reverse," Penman said. "I will venture to say the city has a substantially different version of what happened."
He said the investigation into Tillery was launched after several employees of the redevelopment agency reported that she had been deleting information from her computer.
"That investigation was turned over some time ago to the appropriate outside government agency," said Penman. He said he could not divulge which government agency has reviewed the city's findings because the investigation is ongoing.
Morris said Wednesday he too had not yet seen or read the claim, and therefore was not prepared to comment.
"This is a complete and total surprise to me," Morris said.