Suit says SamTrans retaliated against ex-employee for questioning accounting practices

By Bonnie Eslinger : Bay Area News Group – excerpt

Accountant claims she ‘suffered’ after raising concerns over practices; is second former employee to do so. Ling La, who sued Wednesday in U.S. District Court, worked for SamTrans between May 2011 and July 2013 as a senior accountant. She names as defendants the San Mateo County Transit District, SamTrans CEO Michael Scanlon and her former supervisor Sheila Tioyao.

“If you stand up and do the right thing, you’re supposed to be rewarded in our culture,” said La’s attorney, Dow Patten. “She’s suffered a lot from it.”

SamTrans Communications Manager Jayme Ackemann said she couldn’t comment on La’s allegations, citing the pending litigation. But she did provide a copy of the investigative findings into La’s complaint, completed in May…

West also concluded that La’s interactions with vendors created “tension” and that she was disciplined for her “harsh and inappropriate” tone, not her whistle-blowing activities.

“I do not find the request” to attend training was in any way retaliatory for coming forward with her concerns about the shipping charges,” West wrote.

Patten said that although La’s specific accusations are different, her concerns about the agency’s accounting practices were similar to those of David Ramires, a former SamTrans accountant who told NBC Bay Area last year that the agency created fake and inflated expenses so money could be secretly set aside. The agency has said its own independent auditors have found nothing illegal with the bookkeeping.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said his office is investigating Ramires’ accusations as well as those subsequently made by the NBC affiliate. SamTrans officials told Wagstaffe they’ll cooperate with the investigation, which he said will be “lengthy.”

“A complete forensic audit is necessary,” the district attorney wrote in an email Friday…(more)

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