MASON CITY, Iowa — A former Cerro Gordo County employee is suing the county and its treasurer after being fired earlier this year.

Former deputy treasurer Natasha Lewerke is suing Patricia Wright, claiming illegal retaliation and termination for reporting evidence of possible law violations and mismanagement and abuse of authority, The Globe Gazette (http://bit.ly/2cWWNjG ) reports. Lewerke is seeking a jury trial.

Lewerke was fired in January after a state audit showed a shortfall of nearly $284,000 in taxes that should have been collected.

Wright requested an investigation because she says she suspected vehicle registrations and title transactions weren’t being properly processed in her office. Wright said at the time that the audit and investigation didn’t involve misuse of funds.

The state audit reported that the Department of Transportation investigated specific allegations related to transactions between a dealer and another company. The dealership paid only the first-time registration fee and use tax on five of 157 vehicles that were purchased, resulting in the shortfall.

According to Lewerke’s lawsuit, two of Wright’s personal friends came to the treasurer’s office to transfer a title to a double-axle trailer they said they bought for $1,000. Lewerke thought the purchase price seemed too low and contacted an Iowa Department of Transportation investigator who asked her to provide him with copies of the paperwork.

The lawsuit says Lewerke reported the situation to Wright who told her that she had acted outside the scope of her duties by contacting the investigator.

Human Resources Director Tom Drzycimski suspended Lewerke for a day and she was later placed on administrative leave before being fired.

Drzycimski said the lawsuit is a personnel matter and declined to comment.


Information from: Globe Gazette, http://www.globegazette.com/