- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

A Metro manager recently posted fliers of an employee she had fired around the transit system's work spaces in an apparent violation of privacy and personnel policies.

Juanita Freeburger, an internal-audit manager, fired senior contract auditor Claire Woody on Nov. 20 and then posted fliers with Ms. Woody's picture and employee number saying she had been "terminated" and was not allowed on Metro property without an escort.

"It was a horrible way to treat her. Someone should get fired," said a Metro worker familiar with the fliers.

Ms. Woody said the fliers humiliated her and were intended to punish her for questioning the consulting fees charged to the agency by a crony of a top Metro official and for refusing to "rubber-stamp" other questionable contracts.

"I've never seen a flier like that put out before," said Ms. Woody, who had worked as an auditor at Metro for five years. "It was blatantly open to everyone who walked by."

The fliers were removed at the orders of Metro Board Secretary Harold Bartlett after employees complained, said Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann.

"Management felt the display of the fliers was unnecessary and inappropriate," Mr. Feldmann said. "Ms. Freeburger took this action on her own, and when management learned these fliers had been posted, they were removed."

He said Ms. Freeburger posted the fliers and notified Metro Transit Police to prevent Ms. Woody from entering Metro property without an escort.

Citing privacy and personnel-policy concerns, Mr. Feldmann said he could not discuss if Ms. Freeburger was disciplined. A Metro employee said she received a verbal reprimand.

Again citing privacy and personnel-policy concerns, Mr. Feldmann said he is forbidden from confirming if Ms. Woody was fired or resigned from Metro.

"I can't say anything about her reasons for leaving. I can say without any hesitation it had nothing to do with the Ray Lytle contract or any other specific contract issue," the Metro spokesman said.

Ms. Woody said she was initially involved with reviewing the contract of Wayman H. "Ray" Lytle, a retired federal transit official who was hired without the Metro board's knowledge for $165 an hour despite auditors' objections. Metro auditors were overruled when they recommended that he be paid only $110 an hour since he could not justify any overhead.

Ms. Woody said she opposed the Lytle contract because Mr. Lytle had not justified his hourly rate, which was originally $175 an hour. She said that instead of forcing Mr. Lytle to justify his costs, Metro officials reduced his rate by $10 an hour.

"I'm the same one who recommended Lytle should not do business with the authority," Ms. Woody said. "But my business manager rewrote it and reduced his rate by only $10."

"She had one specific task that she was requested to do, and she was unable to complete that," Mr. Feldmann said of Ms. Woody and her work. "That was her only involvement in the matter."

Mr. Lytle's contract was ordered by Panagiotis P. "Takis" Salpeas, assistant general manager for transit-system development, on Oct. 1, 1998, only days after Mr. Salpeas began working for Metro. Mr. Lytle had previously worked as a consultant with Mr. Salpeas at San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit.

The agreement was originally a $100,000 no-bid, sole-source contract. Within 15 months, the contract ballooned to $333,065. The contract was canceled by General Manager Richard A. White a year ago, after The Washington Times requested information about the deal.

After The Times reported on the contract, Metro altered its policy to require consultants to itemize and justify their hourly rates. In addition, the Federal Transit Administration and the Department of Transportation questioned the Lytle contract and the job of former Procurement Department Director Francis X. "Buddy" Watson. Mr. Watson's job was eliminated and he was forced to leave Metro.

Ms. Woody said she had been a full-time temporary employee at Metro since November 1996 and was promoted to permanent status last year. After she was promoted, her marks on her evaluations declined and Ms. Freeburger began questioning time she took off for grand jury duty and surgery, she said.

"I think [the questionable consulting contract] became an issue because it had to be rewritten," Ms. Woody said. "I did not want to do the unethical things they wanted me to do. I became kind of a loner."

She said Ms. Freeburger fired her the day after she returned to work from sick leave she took following her recovery from surgery.

Ms. Woody said she was told she was on probation since she started a new job and her evaluation scores were not adequate for her to remain at Metro.

Ms. Woody said that Ms. Freeburger also told her she was fired because she did not "follow auditing standards" and her work was not complete.

"She never said anything before about auditing standards," said Ms. Woody, who had worked as an auditor for four years. "She wanted me out of there."

Ms. Woody said she filed a complaint with the Metro equal-employment opportunity office, but had not received a reply. She said because she is not a union employee, she has no way to appeal her termination other than filing with the EEO office.

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