Fired arborist settles whistleblower suit against ATL
By JIM WALLS
Fired Atlanta arborist Tom Coffin settled his whistleblower suit against City Hall on Tuesday, just before his case was scheduled to go to trial, his lawyers say.
Under the deal, the city admits no blame and Coffin gets his pension back and $165,000 in damages and fees, lawyers Gerry Weber and Brian Spears said today in a news release. The City Council still must approve the settlement.
Coffin, once the city’s senior arborist, alleged he was fired in 2008 for complaining that some arborists were allowing landowners to cut trees that should have been protected by Atlanta’s tree ordinance.
Ibraham Maslamani, director of the city’s Bureau of Buildings, fired Coffin after those arborists complained about disciplinary actions that Coffin had initiated against them, his lawsuit alleged. City officials claimed Coffin was an ineffective supervisor.
Maslamani himself was fired in May 2010, a few months after Mayor Kasim Reed took office. A month later, the city auditor reported that inspectors in the Office of Code Compliance under Maslamani had inflated statistics to overstate the department’s caseload and their own performance.
Coffin’s suit against the city had been scheduled to go to trial Tuesday before Fulton County Superior Court Judge John Goger. In a prepared statement, Coffin said:
“The Tree Protection Ordinance is vital to the health and well-being of Atlanta. I trust that this settlement, along with changes developing in the Arborist Division, signals a renewed effort to implement and enforce the ordinance in its totality, strictly and fairly. If so, my firing will have served a useful purpose.”