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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Former parks spokeswoman Goodspeed sues Spokane for $1 million in wake of Straub ouster

A second federal lawsuit has been filed against the city of Spokane related to the dismissal of former police Chief Frank Straub.

Nancy Goodspeed, a former spokeswoman for the Parks Department, filed the $1 million lawsuit Monday against the city, Mayor David Condon, members of his staff and a contractor providing medical employment screening.

Goodspeed alleges she was illegally replaced by Monique Cotton, the Spokane Police Department spokeswoman who said Straub sexually harassed her, and discriminated against when she tried to return to work following treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

“They were treating her as so disabled, that she wasn’t going to come back,” said Kevin Roberts, the Spokane attorney representing Goodspeed.

Straub also sued the city, alleging Condon and his administration took no efforts to substantiate Cotton’s claims or those of police brass who brought forth concerns about what they called Straub’s abusive leadership style before demanding his resignation in September. A federal judge threw out that lawsuit in June, ruling Straub’s ouster was voluntary. That judgment is under appeal.

Goodspeed was a legally protected employee at City Hall, not a political appointee like Straub, Roberts said. She filed a tort claim against the city as well as a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sent Goodspeed a letter July 29 allowing the suit to move forward.

Roberts said the city’s legal counsel offered Goodspeed $45,000 to settle the case out of court following the receipt of that July 29 letter. He called the amount “kind of insulting.”

“They’ve taken the end of Nancy’s career,” Roberts said.

Brian Coddington, the mayor’s spokesman, said Monday afternoon the lawsuit had not been served to City Hall. He said the administration does not typically comment on pending litigation.

Goodspeed, who was 35 years older than Cotton at the time the transfer was made in May 2015, has been living with the symptoms of Parkinson’s for years, Roberts said. She went on medical leave in February 2015 to undergo surgery and treatment designed to allow her to continue to work until her planned retirement after 10 years with the city, which would have occurred in 2017, Roberts said.

City Administrator Theresa Sanders offered Cotton a job in the Parks Department in April, as Goodspeed was preparing for her treatment. The lawsuit alleges Condon violated Goodspeed’s privacy by publicly commenting on her medical condition while defending Cotton’s new position in the Parks Department.

When Goodspeed returned to the office in September, the terms and conditions of her employment had changed in violation of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, the suit alleges, as Cotton was given top billing as spokeswoman for the department.

The city required Goodspeed to complete two neurophysical evaluations at Occupational Medicine Associates, a Spokane firm that contracts with the city to provide employment screening services. Goodspeed’s doctors had cleared her to return to her previous duties for up to 32 hours per week, according to the lawsuit, with an agreement to ramp up her workload to full time.

A message left at Occupational Medicine Associates, which was also named in the suit, went unanswered late Monday. The suit also names Heather Lowe, the city’s former human resources director, who resigned in June.

Goodspeed refused the neurological tests and was “constructively discharged,” according to her suit.

Cotton, who resigned Feb. 1, was being paid about $20,000 more than Goodspeed for the same amount of work, according to the lawsuit. The administration said Cotton was needed ahead of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar revamp of Riverfront Park, which broke ground earlier this summer.

Roberts cited the 2014 jury verdict in favor of Liane Carlson, a former human resources employee who sued for discrimination after also being required to perform a “fitness for duty” examination before returning to work following a stroke. Carlson received $230,000 at trial.

Roberts said the city has not taken action to rectify its discriminatory actions.

“It’s like the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ ” Roberts said. “Every time the curtain gets pulled back, they close the curtain and say, no, no, that’s not really what happened.”

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson. No hearings had been scheduled as of Monday.

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