Lawsuit accuses METRO of destroying records

February 24, 2010 9:35:41 PM PST
A METRO senior vice president is off the job, the result of document shredding in the wake of a request by a local attorney. He wanted to know how tax money was spent and that's when the shredding began. Local attorney and former city councilman Lloyd Kelley, investigating METRO and the use of taxpayer dollars, says after requesting information, he learned documents at METRO were being destroyed. He has now filed a lawsuit to stop the destruction of additional documents.

"The lawsuit was filed to simply protect the public's information," said Michael D. West, attorney for Lloyd Kelley.

Kelley filed the Freedom of Information request January 27, asking for documents pertaining to travel expenses, travel vouchers and email communications between the CEO of METRO and other executives.

"The documents that were requested which brought this issue to bear, deal with METRO's dealings with light rail and the way that they are spending the money, possibly their involvement with contractors and others," said West.

However, once Kelley filed the lawsuit, METRO held a press conference. CEO Frank Wilson denied he ordered the destruction of documents, but admits at least one employee has confessed to it.

"I became aware yesterday afternoon that there was some shredding of documents in our legal department some time Monday," said Frank Wilson, President and CEO of METRO.

Wilson maintained it's not yet clear what documents were destroyed as an investigation is underway. However, Kelley's attorney says it appears a cover-up was underway.

"Apparently Frank Wilson and METRO felt like these were very damaging documents to their reputations and possibly to their freedom because of possible criminal violations," West said.

We also learned Wednesday that two attorneys working for METRO either recently resigned or were fired. We know that one of them is Pauline Higgins, who according to METRO's website, was in charge of open records requests.

The CEO of METRO also says the information requested by Kelley was not destroyed and says it will be delivered. The next hearing on the case is scheduled for March 5.