Former Caltrans official sues agency over alleged retaliation

By Alex Nieves | 04/29/2024 06:19 AM EDT

Jeanie Ward-Waller claimed California Department of Transportation Director Tony Tavares and Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin decided to remove her from her position.

Vehicles pass a highway construction site.

Jeanie Ward-Waller alleges the California Department of Transportation illegally used state and federal funds for road maintenance to instead widen a stretch of Interstate 80 in the Sacramento area. Rich Pedroncelli/AP

A former California Department of Transportation official sued the agency Thursday, alleging that top officials demoted her for raising concerns about funds used for a highway expansion project.

Attorneys for Jeanie Ward-Waller, a clean transportation lobbyist who was Caltrans’ deputy director of planning and modal programs until last fall, alleged in Sacramento Superior Court that California’s top transportation officials — Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin and Caltrans Director Tony Tavares — made the decision to remove her from her position after she said Caltrans was misusing state funding to widen highways.

The 13-page filing alleges state officials violated the state Fair Employment and Housing Act as well as four protections in California labor code against whistleblower retaliation, discrimination based on sex and failure to prevent both retaliation and discrimination. The lawsuit seeks economic damages for lost wages and emotional pain and suffering.


Ward-Waller was appointed in January 2020 by Omishakin, who directed Caltrans before being promoted to secretary of transportation by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2022.