Citi settles lawsuit related to former traffic engineer for $360,000

(Chancy Bush/Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Magazine

The City of Albuquerque has paid $360,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former traffic engineer who allegedly was fired after expressing concerns about the Albuquerque Express Transit and other projects.

John Colesar, who led the city’s traffic department, filed a whistleblower suit in 2019 against the city and two of his former supervisors. He claimed he was wrongly dismissed in 2017 “for his repeated complaints about the city’s failure to comply with traffic safety rules and ordinances”. His concerns included the formation of the ART line along Central Avenue, and concerns that his lawsuit was identified as:

• “Dangerous and uncomfortable” U-courses

• Removal of “safe and adequate” car parks

• Improper placement of high-density active pedestrian signals

• “Adverse effects” on local businesses due to ARV-related traffic congestion

Kolessar’s lawsuit alleged that he raised non-ACV concerns as well, including that the city failed to comply with national standards for traffic lights and signals. He responded when supervisors ordered him to disregard the standards, which his lawsuit says earned him a “problem employee” designation. He was eventually fired, reportedly, for driving a work vehicle on personal assignments and “other minor offenses to individuals.”

According to the settlement agreement, Kolesar “denies just cause to support his dissolution and the City denies any and all allegations of unlawful or retaliatory conduct,” but the parties agreed that it was in their mutual interest to avoid future legal action.

The city settled the case in late 2021, but the legal department only reported to the city council this month as part of its quarterly litigation report. According to the report, the Kulesar settlement is among 15 the city paid out during the first three months of 2022. The settlements total $862,000 and cover a range of issues, including lawsuits alleging slip and fall damages in a city park to a person claiming Discrimination on the basis of age and disability.

Colesar’s lawyer did not respond to the Journal’s message on Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the city said settling the whistleblower case is the best course of action.

“Ultimately, it made more sense to settle the matter rather than continue legal proceedings and incur further costs,” city spokeswoman Ava Montoya said in a written statement.

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