DA Pamela Price sued by former spokesperson

A former spokesperson for Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price has filed a lawsuit against the county for wrongful termination, discrimination, and failure to pay wages.

Patti Lee, the former spokesperson, said she was fired after pointing out what she believed were illegal practices, including violations of the state public records act.

Lee was a reporter at KTVU until 2014 and worked for Price as a public information officer for six months last year until she was fired.

Lee said in her lawsuit that she was subjected to humiliating and bullying behavior and that Price once remarked that her enemies are "the media and the Asians."

"As a district attorney, you can't fire the person in charge, the public information officer, for upholding sort of the sanctimony of transparency, the First Amendment," said Lee's attorney Nick Roxborough.

Lee's firing followed an incident in which Berkeley Scanner founder Emilie Raguso was denied access to a news conference put on by the DA.

The Berkeley Scanner was first to report Lee's allegations.

Raguso was later allowed to attend DA news conferences, but she and other media then requested records related to Price's media policies and press list.

In her lawsuit, Lee says she tried to respond to those requests but that her colleagues hid, deleted or altered records instead of producing them.

"Essentially they said they had no records," Raguso said Thursday. 

Raguso told KTVU Lee was one of the two spokespeople who led her out of the news conference, apparently at the behest of Price, who is now facing a recall election.

"I did feel that day that Patti was troubled by what was happening, and so when I did see her allegations come out later, I wasn't entirely surprised," Raguso said. 

"Transparency is the oxygen of accountability for public officials and public agencies," said David Loy, legal director of the First Amendment Coalition. "To the extent there may have been retaliation against Ms. Lee for standing up for the First Amendment, or the rights of persons requesting public records, that's a serious problem."

The district attorney's office said it could not comment on pending litigation.

Henry Lee is a KTVU crime reporter. E-mail Henry at Henry.Lee@fox.com and follow him on Twitter @henrykleeKTVU and www.facebook.com/henrykleefan