Former Jersey City business administrator and Fulop protege Brian Platt has been named in a lawsuit brought by a Kansas City, Missouri employee who says he was demoted because he would not lie to the press at Platt’s behest.
According to the plaintiff, Chris Hernandez, Platt suggested lying to the press as a “legitimate media strategy” during a staff meeting earlier in the year.
Hernandez, who ran Kansas City’s communications office, says he told Platt “That’s not a good idea. We shouldn’t do that.”
Platt allegedly replied, “Why not? In Jersey, we had a mayor who would just make up numbers on the fly from the podium, and no reporters ever called him on it.”
Platt joined the Fulop administration in 2013. He became the city’s first chief innovation officer and established the Jersey City Office of Innovation in 2015. In 2018, he became Jersey City business administrator, city manager and chief operating officer. He left to become city Manager of Kansas City in November 2020.
In Kansas City, according to the civil complaint, Platt pushed his staff to inflate the number of miles the city would resurface in its “Summer of Street Resurfacing” program and then, in a tweet, gave a number 33% larger than the true number.
Platt’s anger apparently then boiled over following a May story in the Kansas City Star suggesting that the city would fill fewer potholes than previously thought, a result of greater resources being allocated to paving.
“Platt insisted that the numbers were wrong, even though the numbers had been given to the Star reporter by Public Works and were publicly posted on the City’s Open Data platform” says the complaint. “Platt wanted Plaintiff and other staffers to call the reporter and tell him that the numbers were wrong.”
In June, Hernandez and Platt met at a coffee shop. Hernandez told Platt that a staff member “had resigned and other staffers were leaving or refusing promotions because they were upset regarding the way that Mr. Platt and [another supervisor] were treating them. Both Plaintiff and Mr. Platt left the meeting upset and frustrated.”
Hernandez was demoted in August.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas was quoted as saying that he had “seen absolutely nothing to indicate that [the claims] would be accurate.”
Hernandez filed suit on November 30 seeking protection under Missouri’s whistleblower law and is claiming that he was “demoted in his employment in retaliation for reporting not to be dishonest to the news media and the public to his employer.”