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Linda Woodbury, the city’s longtime disabilities services coordinator, was terminated by Mayor Jerry Sanders on Wednesday, she said.
Widely respected throughout the disabled community, Woodbury was responsible for coordinating the city’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which provides civil rights protections to people with disabilities and prohibits discrimination based on disability.
The move came a day after the mayor said he intends to increase funding for disabled access improvements by $10 million annually to comply with the ADA, while cutting jobs and other services throughout the city, as part of a five-year financial plan.
Woodbury served as the city’s Citizens Review Committee on Disability Issues. The committee’s regularly monthly meeting, scheduled for Friday, was abruptly canceled yesterday.
During a brief interview Wednesday afternoon, Woodbury said she was told that she “exhibits a lack of leadership and support for the organization,” before being let go.
Woodbury participated in an interview Tuesday with voiceofsandiego.org for a forthcoming article about evacuation planning for disabled and special needs citizens during a natural disaster or other catastrophe. Woodbury said she didn’t know if that interview factored into the mayor’s decision.
The mayor’s office has a policy that staff must receive authorization prior to speaking with reporters, but it was not clear whether Woodbury asked for or received permission.
Fred Sainz, a spokesman for Sanders, declined to comment on the Woodbury’s termination because it is a personnel matter.
Betty Bacon, a former member of the review committee, said she was dismayed by the news of Woodbury’s departure and that she was fired without first consulting the committee or community leaders.
“If there’s a feeling in the Mayor’s Office that there is a lack of leadership, it’s because the mayor has had people between him and Linda Woodbury filtering information,” Bacon said. “Linda was trying to get people to change and she was speaking up from the bottom of the pile trying to get program directors to do things that are required by law.”
Bacon said the fact that Woodbury is blind helped her do her job.
“There has been a significant value in having someone with personal experience with disabilities issues,” she said.
Penny McClellan, a psychologist and advocate who has worked with Woodbury to improve that planning process and identify the community’s needs, called the mayor’s decision “shocking at a time when the city needs this the most.”
“I can’t believe the city would let her go,” McClellan said. “Who else is going to understand the community and the needs out there?”
Check back for updates later.