City claims fired water department employee deleted evidence used to defend TORT claims

Posted at 11:19 PM, Sep 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-20 00:19:39-04

TULSA-- A crew leader in the Water and Sewer department—fired by the city for intentionally destroying evidence used to defend damage claims is telling his side of the story.

The city contends the water department worker was disgruntled after being passed over for a promotion and decided to retaliate—by deleting the evidence the city uses to defend itself in TORT claims- those are grievances claiming negligence when city property damages private property.

The city of Tulsa fired Derrick Crofford in May. Crofford was a 12 year veteran of the water department and received an award from the city for excellence in 2015. Crofford led the teams responsible for repairing busted city pipes.

“My entire career was in the water department i can tell you anything you want to know about water distribution,” Crofford said. 

According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the city’s legal department claims Crofford deleted TORT claim files—which included investigative reports and photographs of the alleged damages from broken water pipes. 

“I still maintain that I didn’t delete and they can’t even tell me what files I deleted,” he said. 

Crofford has said all along through a lengthy appeal process that he didn’t do what the city claims he did.

“I removed some files that I  was told it was OK to remove because they were over a certain age but after that they-- you know the other things that I still firmly believe that they have that they said they didn’t just because they didn’t want me around anymore,” Crofford said. 

Gerry Bender is the city’s litigation manager. He says it’s too soon to know how much damage was done by the deletion, or how much it could end up costing the city.

“It's going to make it more difficult, but obviously we always take into account there are things that happen sometimes that we don't get an investigation before we get a TORT claim and we go back and rebuild whatever we can out of that, ” Bender said. 

When the city fired Crofford—it claimed by deleting the files Crofford brought embarrassment, distrust or discredit to the city of Tulsa

Bender says it's possible for the city to defend itself against the claims, despite missing some of the evidence.

"The photographs are important but they're not the total we look at all of the records there's a substantial amount of paperwork that goes with all of these and we look at the entire picture," Bender said. 



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