Linda Woodbury, the city’s former disabilities services coordinator, isn’t holding her tongue any longer.
Hired in 1999 to coordinate the city’s beleaguered efforts to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Woodbury said she held back serious concerns about the city’s current plans for the evacuation of disabled and special needs citizens during a natural disaster or other catastrophe.
Woodbury, who was interviewed about the subject on Tuesday and was fired by Mayor Jerry Sanders on Wednesday, said she “can say now what I couldn’t say.”
“I don’t even know if the city has a plan,” Woodbury said. “They have never included me unless I begged. I don’t know whether they didn’t want to include people with disabilities or if they just don’t have an adequate plan for emergency evacuation.”
Woodbury said that under prior administrations, the city’s office of homeland security used to hold regular meetings specifically focusing on public safety issues in the disabled community.
“They haven’t held any meetings coordinating disability services with homeland security this year,” she said. “I’ve had to ask what kind of priority is this.”
But Woodbury said she doesn’t believe her decision to be interviewed for today’s article about evacuation planning factored into Sanders decision.
A friend who works at in the Mayor’s Office told Woodbury that Sanders’ staff started making arrangements to fire her on Monday, the day before she was interviewed, she said.
She suspects the decision was made because a physical ailment and a lack of support had caused her to delay issuing an ADA implementation strategy plan that she’d been asked to draft. Woodbury, who is blind and uses a computer program to read and write, said chronic wrist pain has recently impacted her productivity.
Additionally, she said her efforts to involve other city divisions in the planning process were ignored by department heads and her superiors.
Woodbury, who worked for several Fortune 500 companies as an ADA compliance consultant before being hired by the city, also clashed with the Sanders’ administration over the amount of money that the city needs to spend to become compliant with federal law, she said. Sanders promised to spend $50 million over five years while Woodbury has set that figure closer to $500 million.
Councilwoman Donna Frye, who has worked closely with Woodbury on disability access issues, praised her performance and said she was stunned by Sanders’ choice.
“It had always been my experience that Linda Woodbury was one of the most honest, most frank, most hardworking people that I had ever met,” Frye said. “Linda did her job and Linda supported the city by making sure that it complied with ADA requirements, because we were very far behind on the issue.”