WASHINGTON (CN) – Eight District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue employees claim the District forced them to retire or be fired merely because they had accepted loans or gifts from Harriet Walters, “the notorious former OTR employee who embezzled nearly $50 million from the defendant over a twenty year period.”
The employees sued D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan and D.C. CFO Natwar Ghandi in separate Superior Court complaints, each alleging wrongful termination, each seeking $1 million.
Each plaintiff admits accepting loans or gifts from Walters, but say that’s not the criminal conduct, and the District could not find evidence of criminal conduct.
“After a thorough investigation by federal officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Department of the Treasury, the District of Columbia of Criminal Investigation and Office of Integrity and Oversight and the Metropolitan Police Department Internal Affairs, none of the agencies were able to find sufficient evidence of criminal conduct,” claims plaintiff Sharon Bartee, who says she was fired after being given 2 hours to decide whether to retire or be terminated.
Bartee, an OTR employee of 19 years, says that during her time she worked for the department, “she came to know Ms. Walters and accepted gifts from her.”
Plaintiff Thomasina Starke, a computer operator with 20 years on the job, says she “accepted a loan from Ms. Walters of approximately $500 to assist with her son’s transition from high school to college.”
Starke says she was placed on administrative leave after being given the same ultimatum.
Katie Davenport says she resigned when given the ultimatum because she had accepted two loans from Walters, each for about $1,000. She says she “agreed to repay and was ready to do so but Walters was incarcerated.”
The similar complaints state: “On September 15, 2008, Walters pleaded guilty to numerous federal charges related to the heft [sic] of over $48 million dollars of District of Columbia funds.”
Walters, a longtime employee and low-level manager in the Real Property Tax Administration of OTR, “masterminded a nearly two decade-long scheme in which she processed fraudulent real property tax refunds and arranged for the proceeds of those refund [sic] to be deposited into bank accounts controlled by her and her friends and family,” the complaints state.
All eight say that none of Walter’s bank accounts were found to be associated with them.
Along with Bartee, Davenport and Starke, the plaintiffs include Roy Robinson, Patricia Montegut, Helen Butler, Mary Davis and Lavern Crawford.
They each want $1 million in damages for “wrongful termination and forced retirement because of duress and coercion,” in violation of the First Amendment.
They all are represented by Ronald Dixon of Alexandria, Va.