A top administrator for the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority who was put on administrative leave last spring is suing the organization and its executive director.

In a lawsuit filed on Monday, Teresa Sims, the deputy director, alleges that she has faced retaliation from Todd Johnston and the housing authority for speaking out about mismanaged public funds and unlawful hiring practices.

Sims is seeking nearly $1 million in emotional and economic damages.

Housing authority’s deputy under investigation

The deputy director of the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority has sued the agency.

In May, Sims was placed on paid leave while the housing authority investigated whether she falsified records to allow her son and fellow employee, Benjamin Natividad, to receive public housing assistance while he was renting from his uncle.

Sims was placed on leave around the same time her accusations against Johnston came to light.

Krista Le Roux, a Portland attorney representing Sims, said her client’s primary motivation is to restore her reputation. Filing a lawsuit was also done in part to urge the housing authority to finish its investigation, which has spanned almost nine months.

“She wants to clear her name, and it seems the only way to do this is through a lawsuit,” Le Roux said.

Johnston declined to comment on the lawsuit, but noted that many of the allegations were similar to other complaints Sims has filed with the housing authority and the state Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Investigators hired by the housing authority and the state Bureau of Labor and Industries dismissed the complaints.

The agency’s investigators refuted claims that Johnston promoted an employee who wasn’t qualified for the position, obscured information or that Johnston and Helping Hands, a nonprofit that works with the homeless, mismanaged public funds.

A separate investigation into complaints lodged against Sims by housing authority staff is ongoing, but is expected to wrap up by March, Johnston said.

Le Roux said it did not concern her that similar allegations have been dismissed by other investigators, and believes taking Sims complaints through the court system will help facilitate a broader investigation.

“I feel certain I’ll be able to unearth more evidence that will be helpful to my client,” she said.

Brenna Visser is a former reporter for The Astorian.

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