To two reporters and candidate Mark DePaula. Whistleblower says San Mateo County supervisor lied about offer to talk By Bonnie Eslinger Daily News Staff Writer Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 3:00 a.m. A former SamTrans accountant who has filed a retaliation lawsuit against the agency said Wednesday that San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom didn't truthfully tell The Daily News how she responded to the employee's request for help. Groom was chairwoman of the SamTrans board of directors in 2013 when the employee contacted her with concerns about the public transit agency. In an endorsement interview with The Daily News on Monday, Groom emphatically stated she was told by SamTrans' legal counsel that the employee -- Ling La -- wanted to speak with her, that she called the woman and left a message with her cellphone and home phone numbers, "and she did not call me back." "That's the honest to God's truth," Groom said. Groom's comments were included at the end of an article about the county supervisor's race that ran on the second page of Wednesday's Daily News. Advertisement "She's a liar, that's all I can say," Ling La said Wednesday in a phone interview. A recording of the voice message Groom left backs her claim, said La, who filed her suit in U.S. District Court on April 16. "The voicemail just speaks for itself. She told me she wished me luck and work with HR, and that tells me that she doesn't want to bother with me." In a one-minute message on July 2, 2013 that The Daily News listened to, Groom states: "Hi this is Carole Groom, the chair of the SamTrans board, you left me a message. I want to tell you that I have talked to the senior, the executives at SamTrans and found out a little bit about this. And my message to you is, in fact I urge you, to continue to work with the HR department to resolve some of these issues and I, that's the course that you should follow. I urge you to visit with the HR department and read the report that had been issued upon some of the claims that you had made. I urge you to do that, I think that's the best course of action. Thank you very much for calling me and I wish you well. Bye bye." In that message, Groom didn't leave any contact numbers. When called Wednesday, Groom said that's not how she remembered the conversation. "I apologize if I misled," Groom said. "I really have no recollection of that." Groom also insisted that she didn't know La was a whistleblower or why she wanted to speak with someone from the county. "If she was a whistleblower, I didn't know she was a whistleblower," Groom said. "I was asked to call her because she wanted to speak to me." According to the suit, La worked for SamTrans between May 2011 and July 2013 as a senior accountant. In August 2012, she began to "notice a pattern of irregularly high freight charges" on invoices coming from the agency's parts and inventory department and "began to suspect collusion between the buyer and the parts vendor." She asked questions about the accounting process and later about other practices and was subsequently terminated on July 31, 2013. Earlier that month, La contacted San Mateo County's whistle-blowing hotline and was transferred to Groom's office, according to the suit. Groom replied the next day and said La's complaints would not be investigated outside of SamTrans' human resources, the suit adds. During her endorsement interview at The Daily News, Groom was asked if she referred La back to her boss. "I did not," Groom said. "It wasn't a whistleblower to me. She asked to speak with me. I left her a message and we never spoke." Asked at that time to clarify what was said, Groom responded, "My message was, 'Here's my phone numbers.'" On Wednesday, Groom said she gets a lot of calls. Although a copy of the recording was sent to Groom by email, she had not listened to it by the time she responded to the paper's call for comment. "If that's what you have," the supervisor said. "I guess that's what I said." SamTrans provided The Daily News with a report from an outside consultant hired to investigate La's complaints; it concluded that La's interactions with vendors created "tension" and that she was disciplined for her "harsh and inappropriate" tone, not her whistle-blowing activities.