Is Your Organization Trained On Whistleblower Protections?

The former parks and recreation director of Stonecrest, Georgia, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city based on allegations of mismanagement.

The former director sued the city for defamation and violation of the Georgia Whistleblower Act. He claims that the city manager wrongfully terminated him in June 2023 for telling the mayor about her mismanagement in April 2023.

The plaintiff was hired in July 2022 to "overhaul the city's parks and recreation department." He said the department "lacked structure and order."

The then-city manager departed suddenly in September 2022, and the mayor promoted the current city manager because they were friends, according to the allegations contained in the lawsuit.

The plaintiff alleges that the new city manager and the mayor caused the city to spend tens of thousands of dollars unnecessarily while ignoring "critical budget requests." He claims the city manager delayed projects, hiring, payments, and purchases in his department for no reason. He further alleges that the city manager overruled a decision to replace a contractor that overcharged for services and owed the city $80,000.

The plaintiff claims he repeatedly raised concerns with the city manager and the mayor about the ways that his efforts to improve his department were being thwarted.

Several weeks after requesting a meeting with the city manager and the mayor, the plaintiff was placed on a suspension as the result of being falsely accused of authorizing city business with his father-in-law, among other false accusations, according to the allegations contained in the suit.

The plaintiff claims he was suspended and then fired "without any warning, reprimand or request to correct his methods." The plaintiff alleges that he was terminated for "asking too many questions" and because of the city manager's "corrupt decision making."

The plaintiff further alleges that city officials publicly defamed him to potential new employers, which made it impossible for him to get another job in local government after a 25-year career. He says the city manager also falsely accused him of stealing and destroying city documents to city staff.

Stonecrest has faced multiple allegations of mismanagement since its incorporation as a city in 2016. Rosie Manins "City of Stonecrest faces fresh mismanagement claims" www.ajc.com (Feb. 01, 2024).

 

Commentary

 

Although these allegations, for example, took place in Georgia, and invoked the Georgia Whistleblower Act, there are more than 20 federal whistleblower laws, and other states have their own laws, as well. Work with legal counsel to review which ones apply to you and your industry. Jason J. Hawkins "Selected State Statutes on Whistleblower Protections and False Claims" whistleblower.house.gov (May 25, 2023).

Create a written policy outlining how to manage employees who blow the whistle. State that retaliation is strictly prohibited, and employees or managers who engage in retaliation will face disciplinary action.

Provide a third-party reporting mechanism so that employees can blow the whistle on wrongdoing and safety violations without fear of retaliation.

Train all members of your organization on your whistleblower protection policy and procedures upon hire and again annually.

Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey: