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Jury Awards City Whistleblower in Wrongful Termination Case

Former city architect Henry Lewis says he was fired for trying to stop a contractor from cutting costs and overcharging, according to an article in Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

An Alexandria jury has awarded former city architect Henry Lewis back pay under a new whistleblower law for his efforts to stop a contractor from cutting corners and overcharging on the new Alexandria Police Department headquarters, according to Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

According to the report, an Alexandria jury on March 8 awarded $104,050 in back pay to Lewis, who has 35 years of construction management experience and served as a senior project manager for the $81-million building on Wheeler Avenue.

Alexandria City Attorney Jim Banks told Patch the city plans to appeal.

Lewis was fired Aug. 3, 2011, about a month after a new whistleblower law—the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act—went into effect and three months before the headquarters opened.

Lewis’ lawyer, Zachary Kitts of Fairfax-based K&G Law Group, is seeking an additional $246,528 for loss of pension benefits, front pay and paid leave, according to the article by Peter Vieth.

Alexandria Circuit Court Judge James Clark presided over the case. Clark will decide whether Lewis should be reinstated to his job and if not, how much he should be compensated.

Lewis also has a request for the judge, according to the article—that his name is added to the dedication plaque on the building. Lewis spent 3 1/2 years on its design and was dismayed when his name was not included with others who had contributed to its creation.

In the case, Henry Lewis v. City of Alexandria, Virginia, Lewis and his lawyer file suit against the city and Director of General Services Jeremy McPike for “wrongful termination and discrimination.”

Lewis expressed concerns with contractor Whiting-Turner on the police project and a related project he was working on at 133 S. Quaker Lane, according to court documents obtained by Patch.

For example, Lewis’ court filing says roof trusses to be used in building 133 S. Quaker were made of wood, as required, but they were delivered to the construction site “covered with mold and warped.”

They were replaced, but Whiting-Turning shortly afterward, according to the case filing, requested that Lewis be removed from the police project and replaced by McPike. However, McPike could not replace Lewis because McPike is not a licensed architect.

The case also claims Whiting-Turner submitted false invoices and received payment on those invoices from the city despite Lewis' effort to bring the problem to his superiors' attention.

Ultimately, Lewis claims in court documents that his continuing efforts to stop fraud and false claims against the city resulted in his termination.

He was asked to resign from the city, refused to sign documents presented by the city's Human Resources Department and was terminated, according to legal documents.

Haunches April 06, 2013 at 09:08 PM
There was a letter earlier this week about the city letting litigators run things. The author made a good point. Banks apparently likes to fight ,whether he should or not. He just likes to fight.
Andrew Macdonald April 06, 2013 at 10:48 PM
This is a disgrace. We need to clean house in Alexandria beginning with Mayor Euille who should be asked to resign. The Alexandria city government is dysfunctional and corrupt. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Andrew Macdonald
oldtowner April 07, 2013 at 12:03 AM
blah blah blah blah, andrew.....you mean you want Mayor Euille to QUIT.....like you did?
B West April 07, 2013 at 12:43 AM
I'm in agreement with Neil .. let's take a closer look. Something sounds odd to me. I'd like to hear more from the city officials. I'm sure the construction had to meet stringent code requirements. I beginning to feel like there is a bit more to this story than we are reading here. Let the appeals process begin ..
NoBS April 07, 2013 at 10:58 AM
Haunches, where is that letter about the city litigators? I'd like to read that. Do you have a link? I haven't paid attention to the city attorney's office at all. Maybe I should start doing that.
Robert Stevens April 07, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Let us not be so certain that the City's construction of buildings for its own use meets building code requirements. If higher-ups in the City are willing to cut corners on the construction of city-owned buildings, they surely they would be willing to lean on the City's building inspectors to overlook building code violations on those projects. Further, building codes are focused on ensuring the safety of a structure (it won't burn too easily or collapse during a mild windstorm), they are not intended to protect building owners from all forms of shoddy construction.
Robert Stevens April 07, 2013 at 12:33 PM
One aspect of this closer look should be a review of campaign finance reports to see if any Whiting-Turner officials, subcontractors, etc. have made any contributions to members of City Council or to Jeremy McPike's House of Delegates campaign down in Prince William county.
Haunches April 07, 2013 at 01:57 PM
http://oldtownalexandria.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-looking-glass-litigation-tactics
NoBS April 07, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Thanks Haunches. I'd seen that already. It wasn't really illuminating. Just another MacDonald rant. I was hoping for something more in depth, like who is on Banks' staff, more on his background, etc. I looked up Whiting Turner at the Virginia Public Access Project. Their only donation was $8,000 over the years to the Va Hospital & Healthcare Assn. The have hired lobbyists; the law firm of Troutman Sanders. If anyone has time, you can dig for more info at VPAP. Try to find out who are major owners and principals are at Whiting Turner and see what their individual donations were. http://www.vpap.org/
OT insider April 11, 2013 at 01:39 AM
It is you who are a disgrace Mr. Macdonald. A gentleman would humbly acknowledge the defeat you suffered in the election (which was less than 5 months ago) and accept the mandate the citizens provided but I guess that doesn't fit you. Moving the city forward is far more important than stroking your inflated ego.
NoBS April 11, 2013 at 01:59 PM
I never paid attention to City Attorney James Banks before, but I will not. He was hired in 2009 after a so called "nationwide search." They did a "nationwide search" and got as far as Richmond. This was straight up political strategy. Banks was Vice Mayor of Richmond...where Whiting Turner is headquartered. http://alexandriava.gov/news_display.aspx?id=22302
NoBS April 11, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Meant to say "I will now" not I will not...Patch needs an edit button.
Sherry Henderson April 11, 2013 at 02:32 PM
The City of Alexandria government will continue to embarrass us, as they always do, every single day. It's nothing new. We expect it. That's how we roll in Alexandria.
NoBS April 11, 2013 at 02:59 PM
I'm a solid Dem, but I agree that there needs to be a serious housecleaning in city hall among the higher lever supervisory and managerial staffers. And that goes for all departments. A thorough re-vetting process needs to happen.
Robert Stevens April 11, 2013 at 03:24 PM
I agree that there needs to be a broad house-cleaning at City Hall, starting with Faroll Hamer and Jim Banks, but unfortunately I fear that the offending staffers are doing the bidding of certain members of Council, notably the Mayor.
Sherry Henderson April 11, 2013 at 04:06 PM
I'm a Democrat, yet I don't feel like we're well-served by Bill Euille or our current Alexandria City Council, to include some major housecleaning that it sorely needed at City Hall. That being said, I think that Bill Euille and members of the Alexandria City Council are all good people, but they don't have the 'fire in the belly' to make broad sweeping changes that are necessary to effectuate efficient city governance. Jim Banks, for instance, lives in Leesburg, in Loudoun County, and Faroll Hamer lives in Montgomery County, which both are examples of people making decisions for citizens of the City of Alexandria, yet they don't live here, and are seemingly disconnected from the realities of what we want in our home town when it comes to governance. Most of the decisions of how the City of Alexandria is actually run is made by City Manager, Rashad Young, and not by Bill Euille or the Alexandria City Council. Bill Euille could, if he wanted to, but he could apparently care less, help to make sweeping staff changes at City Hall, which, if done, might possibly invigorate some fresh and imaginative ideas on how to best govern the city in the future. The Alexandria City Council, all Democrats, almost always vote together, in complete agreement, so there are very few 'opposing' views expressed by any one council member, especially when it comes to our City Budget, which seems to have all of a sudden, exploded, with a growing deficit. Be smart, cut back, save money. We all do it.
Robert Stevens April 11, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Sherry, you have hit on a sore point with many Alexandrians -- the extent to which senor City officials live far away from Alexandria, notably Banks and Hamer. Much of the time they act as if they are our colonial masters. You give too much credit, though, to Rashad Young given that he has been in Alexandria just a little over a year. He takes his marching orders from the Mayor, who in turn tosses favors to property developers and others who cut him in on deals, such as participating in the partnership which owns the building now occupied by Virtue Feed and Grain, where Cathal Armstrong was, until earlier this week, the celebrity chef.
Sherry Henderson April 12, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Robert, you're exactly correct. I did give Rashad Young way too much credit, as, yes, he is virtually a puppet for Bill Euille. It is common knowledge that our mayor does give 'favors' to property developers so they can cut him in on their deals. It is all a part of the now-typical Alexandria 'good old boy' network that most Alexandrians hate about our city. People don't care, though. Voters don't care and it shows. Most Alexandrians are Democratic, like myself, and a large majority of them work either for the federal government or an entity with ties to the federal government. But, as a Democrat, I'm embarrassed at some of the things that go on in Alexandria. Once again, though, most Alexandrians could care less how corrupt and how mis-managed their city government is run. If voters in Alexandria really did care, we'd have a completely different slate of elected officials who would answer to voters and not to developers and special interests as the mayor and city council does now. A lot of good and qualified Alexandria Democrats don't run for city government for various reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that they're not tied in with developers and other private special interests who could potentially line their pockets like our mayor. As far as Virtue Feed and Grain? Well, the 'tide', no pun intended, is turning against them, with many people not eating there, as in the past, and only dropping in for drinks. The service there is terrible, too, which is sad.
NoBS April 12, 2013 at 01:02 PM
Sherry, I'm also a Dem but I recognize that the ties to developers, or at least the perception of it, is poisoning civic involvement. Any ideas on what to do?
NoBS April 12, 2013 at 01:29 PM
I had no idea that Banks lived in Leesburg. Why not make it a condition of employment for top city offices that the person live in the city? I don't care if admin assistants and lower level employees don't live here, but even they should be encouraged to. When applying for city jobs, there should be consideration given to Alexandria residents first. Only if no one in Alexandria meets the critertia should we begin to look outside the city. Bringing people in from Atlanta, Richmond and NY strikes me as a snub of the many qualified people who already live here. Plus, our tax dollars are leaving the city.
Sherry Henderson April 12, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Gail, you hit the nail right on the head. The 'alleged' perception of developers and private special interest groups fleecing the pockets of Bill Euille and a lot of our other politicians, absolutely does poison civic involvement. I personally know of some great progressive thinking Democrats, all who wouldn't ever want me to name them, who live in Alexandria and laugh at how our city government operates. The Alexandria Democratic Committee is made up of some great people who have some great ideas on how our city government should be run. Maybe the ADC could form a 'watchdog' committee to zero in on issues that seem nefarious or potentially illegal. That committee, in turn, could be used as a useful tool to let our politicians know, that while we, as Democrats, support them as a party, we also won't let the party label be tarnished. Alexandria is a HUGE haven for gossip and maybe the 'watchdog' committee could visit different neighborhood associations, or HOAs, for example, to hear from citizens as to what's going on in their neck of the woods when it comes to how our city government either does or doesn't serve them. For the most part, the Alexandria city government does have its own positive attributes, so it's not completely broken, but with all government operations, it's not perfect either, despite our best wishes. My thoughts on an ADC 'watchdog' committee may be a bit far fetched, as that's probably not in the ADC's governing charter, but it's just a thought.
NoBS April 12, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Well, Sherry, funny you should mention that...the ADC is at this moment in the process of reviewing and revising its bylaws and organizational structure. I will pass your comment on to the members of the ad hoc committee assigned with this task. I'd support a "watchdog" or "ombudsman" type role.
Sherry Henderson April 12, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Gail, wow, great news! The ADC should have a committee made up as a 'watchdog' or someone in an 'ombudsman' type of role. I think, in turn, this would make the ADC stronger as an advocate for community involvement and people might be more inclined to join and participate in volunteering, too. The ADC could potentially spark some really great revolutionary ideas which could blossom into definitive positive changes in our Alexandria city government, which definitely needs improvement. Kudos to the ADC!
oldtowner April 15, 2013 at 01:28 AM
to Sherry H.....good lord,,,,,I am almost speechless after reading your comments....which are really nuts....you seem to have no idea about how our Mayor/City Manager form of government works....the Mayor does not hire and fire City staff (Mayor/Council only hire the City Mgr, City Attorney and City Clerk)......therefore, the Mayor cannot make sweeping staff changes at City Hall.....anyway, I suggest you try to educate yourself before spewing such misinformation.....I also suggest you run for Mayor or Council....(and by the way, you mention a few times the someone "could care less".....I assume you mean "couldn't care less.")
Sherry Henderson April 15, 2013 at 01:51 AM
oldtowner, I think it's time for you to take your laxative and prune juice and go to bed. I do know how our city government is run in Alexandria. But if you think that Mayor Euille doesn't have any sway with city staff hirings or firings shows how naive you really are. But, hey, kudos to you. Yes, I did mean 'couldn't' care less. Two points.
oldtowner April 15, 2013 at 02:00 AM
to Sherry: wow, I guess you just attack and denigrate anyone who doesn't agree with your view of the world; in my experience, most angry people are very unhappy. And you obviously have no idea how the City is run. Adios....cheer up if you can, it's better for your overall health, both physical and mental.
Sherry Henderson April 15, 2013 at 02:14 AM
oldtowner, are you off your medication? Does your nurse know you're out of your room? Do you have your drool cup with you? I know exactly how the city is run, and, yes, I was stating generalities, and not specifics, but as I'm sure you are completely foaming at the mouth, right now, I can assure you that I'm a very happy and fun person. The negative comments regarding Justin Wilson that I've made are my own opinion, though, which is shared by quite a few Alexandria Democrats that I know, as well. While I know you're all lathered up, and the foam is drooling from your quivering lips as you get your twitching fingers ready to type a response, try to chill, it's good for your heart. Someone of your age probably shouldn't have their heart racing so much while you're off your medication.
oldtowner April 15, 2013 at 02:23 AM
to Sherry.....you are you own worst enemy....just read what you posted....
Sherry Henderson April 15, 2013 at 02:25 AM
oldtowner, now you're showing how senile you really are. I hope you live on a one level home so you don't hurt yourself.
oldtowner April 15, 2013 at 02:32 AM
to Sherry.....you are you own worst enemy....just read what you posted.... I'm done replying to your worthless posts....

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