Former Port Manager Gary Dehlinger filed a civil suit in federal court Friday demanding a jury trial and damages of $2.2 million.
The suit, against the Port of Brookings Harbor, former Commissioner Roger Thompson and Commissioners Jan Barbas and Angi Christian, claims economic and personal damages and demands Dehlinger’s reinstatement.
Barbas, Christian and Thompson are being sued as representatives of the port.
Dehlinger’s attorney, Loren Collins, said Andy Martin was not named in the suit even though he is named on an earlier suit for violations of Oregon State Public Meetings Law because he did not vote to fire Dehlinger at the open hearing and did not deprive him of his job.
In a statement sent to the Pilot, Collins said, “There are two claims for constitutional violations of due process in Gary Dehlinger’s federal complaint.”
The first claim is for depriving Dehlinger of his employment, which is a property right, without due process, according to Collins.
In the complaint, Dehlinger alleges that those actions were committed by the port (as an entity) and, specifically, by Commissioners Barbas, Christian and Thompson.
The suit alleges the port, Christian, Barbas and Thompson, individually and acting in concert, decided to terminate Dehlinger before he was provided a meaningful opportunity to know of and respond to the allegations against him, and because of their prejudgment and bias in relation to his employment, they denied him a meaningful hearing before or after his termination.
The suit claims Dehlinger has suffered and will continue to suffer lost income and other benefits and is entitled to recover damages in the approximate amount of $200,000.
As a further result, the suit asserts Dehlinger has sustained personal and emotional distress, humiliation, impaired professional reputation and other non-economic damages for which he is entitled to recover damages in the amount of $1 million.
The second claim is for violation of a liberty interest, Collins said, and this action claims the port, as a public employer disseminated false and defamatory impressions about Dehlinger in connection with his termination and without giving him the right to clear his name.
Dehlinger alleges the defamatory actions were done by the port and Barbas.
The suit states as a result of the port’s and Barbas’ violations of Dehlinger’s rights he has sustained personal and emotional distress, humiliation, impaired professional reputation and other non-economic damages for which he is entitled to recover damages in the amount of $1 million.
The damages arise from allegations in the document that Barbas, while a port commissioner, posted on social media or caused to be posted on social media with false charges against Dehlinger, charging he withheld information for a criminal investigation and implying dishonesty and malfeasance.
The port is also implicated because, according to the documents, they failed to have safeguards in place to protect Dehlinger’s rights or allow him to clear his name.
According to Collins and information in the suit, the court may also award damages to Dehlinger if they find he was terminated in retaliation as a whistleblower for complaining to Christian and former port attorney James Coffey “about Barbas’ unilateral and unauthorized communication with the Curry County sheriff and district attorney and posting on social media.”
Dehlinger could finally be awarded damages as well if the court finds he was terminated for conferring with Coffey in a manner of fulfilling a societal obligation about the email from Barbas to the sheriff and DA, Barbas’ social media posts concerning a criminal investigation and the documents Dehlinger planned to submit to the sheriff and DA.
Dehlinger’s claims relate to common allegations Dehlinger had rightly conferred with Coffey or complained or expressed concern to Christian about Barbas acting without the direction of the full board when he communicated with the sheriff and DA or posted on social media about the possibility of wrongdoing with the port’s earlier passage of an emergency resolution for the construction of the BC Fisheries Dock.
He alleges he was falsely accused of insubordination for not sending the documents staff collected concerning the dock to the sheriff or DA before they were reviewed by Coffey and the full board.
Dehlinger would also be awarded all of his costs and attorney’s fees if he wins.
How the claims would be paid or by whom if Dehlinger wins would be determined by the courts, Collins said. And if Dehlinger is reinstated, the claims would be decreased by an amount also determined by the court.
Barbas, Christian and Thompson did not return calls asking for comment or could not be reached.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org .