The Kennewick Irrigation District is facing claims totaling more than $2.1 million from three former employees who say they were wrongfully fired.
Joetta Rupert, who was fired in July 2010, has filed a $1 million wrongful termination claim alleging gender discrimination.
Rupert also said her firing happened after repeatedly complaining about the agency's raiding of KID's $15 million endowment fund to bring water to Red Mountain at a time when a board member was trying to buy land there.
KID has denied Rupert's claim, but has yet to answer the claims of former maintenance workers Ismael Rocha and Cooper Homme.
Rocha claims he lost his job after having surgery in September. Rocha, who worked for KID for 19 years, said the surgery was related to an on-the-job injury in 1997 that was covered by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries.
Rocha wants $540,000 for lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses, including $1,600 a month for insurance, and another $500,000 for an alleged hostile work environment.
Details about Rocha's injury and the basis for his claim of a hostile work environment were not available with the claim.
Homme is seeking $91,652 for being fired two years ago after an incident on the job involving an argument with a union representative.
Homme's claim says he was unjustly fired, a victim of discrimination and that he "should not have been terminated for having a difference of opinion with his union representative, and voicing that opinion at a shop meeting."
Rupert was earning about $80,000 a year as real estate manager for KID when the board voted to dismiss her. The July 2010 firing came after Rupert was put on administrative leave while KID investigated whether she violated KID's sick leave policy.
By law, a claim must be filed with a public agency before a lawsuit can be filed.
KID district manager Chuck Freeman said the agency will defend itself if Rupert files a wrongful termination suit in Benton County Superior Court.
Attorney Michael Love of Spokane said Rupert will be suing for retaliation and wrongful discharge.
"(She) was discharged for pointing out activities of the board that were not proper, and as a result she was let go," Love said. Rupert was concerned about how money was being handled, he told the Herald in a phone interview.
Rupert's claim says she was subjected to gender discrimination and gender-based harassment from late 2006 through July 2010.
The alleged incidents included:
w Board members telling her not to have "one-on-one contact with another manager (Freeman) because he didn't trust women."
w Being told that Scott Revell, a subordinate in Rupert's office who later replaced her as planning manager, did not like having to work for a woman.
w Board president John Jaksch allegedly making it known he didn't want to sit next to Rupert at a board retreat.
Rupert's claim also says she was retaliated against for "repeatedly and expressly" complaining about what she said was misconduct, malfeasance and ongoing misuses of KID's $15 million endowment fund.
The alleged misuse included KID spending endowment money to bring water to Red Mountain, where then-board member John Pringle was trying to buy land, and repealing a policy that restricted the use of the endowment money.
Rupert also alleges a quorum of board members took a trip on Revell's boat where they discussed KID business without advertising the session as a public meeting.
The former employee also says she was subjected to "actions of a sexual nature," and that KID failed to take prompt corrective action.