“When officials in state agencies abuse their power or engage in unethical financial activity, they are defrauding tax payers and the government,” said Gary Falkowitz, Managing Attorney at Parker Waichman LLP.
Port Washington, New York (PRWEB) May 24, 2014
Parker Waichman LLP, a national law firm long dedicated to protecting the rights of whistleblowers who have reported, or seek to report, employers engaged in illegal activities, reports that the State of Oregon has settled whistleblower claims by a former Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE) head for $450,000. The case was filed in Marin County Circuit Court on April 9, 2013 (In Re: Robert Killgore vs. The State of Oregon Department of Corrections, Case: 13C13825). The case was brought by Rob Killgore, who alleged wrongful discharge, discrimination and retaliation after speaking up about questionable spending and hiring.
The state has agreed to pay $275,000 for “emotional distress, loss of reputation and other compensatory damage” along with $25,000 in lost wages, Statesman Journal reports; his attorney will receive $150,000 in legal fees. In settling the case, which occurred weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin, the state did not admit wrongdoing. The Oregonian notes that it is one of the largest state settlements in recent history.
According to The Oregonian, Killgore began working as administration for OCE in 2002; the agency is semi-independent but Killgore’s position is hired by the Corrections Department director. Killgore spoke up about the alleged wrongdoing in summer of 2012, the Oregonian indicates. He presented a thick binder to state officials showing allegations that prison officials engaged in off-budget acquisitions and spending that totaled $5 million. The Oregonian notes that the OCE’s budget is not subject to the same legislative scrutiny as the Corrections Department. Killgore’s claims prompted the state Criminal Justice Division to conduct a criminal investigation. Although no evidence of criminal conduct was found, the agency’s report said that Corrections Department officials had made "repeated requests" for "questionable items" and noted a "culture within DOC that seems to depend upon inappropriate 'gestures of goodwill' between DOC and OCE" The Oregonian reports.
The Oregonian reports that in March 2013, Killgore was fired as OCE administrator. Killgore then filed a lawsuit, alleging that he was fired for speaking with state officials about the alleged wrongdoing rather than for his performance at work. Colette Peters is the Corrections Department director who personally fired Killgore. According to The Oregonian, she stated that the settlement was made because of “a business decision”. DAS communications strategist Matt Shelby told The Oregonian that the state settled to avoid further cost of litigation.
Killgore’s allegations have also prompted the Oregon Government Ethics Commission to investigate Peters’ deputy, Mitch Morrow, in light of allegations that he used his authority to get his son a job within prison industries, The Oregonian reports. If Morrow is found to have acted unethically, he could face civil penalties.
Killgore stands by his actions as a whistleblower. "The settlement speaks for itself. I have no regrets. I really don't. I wish more public employees would stand up." He said to The Oregonian.
“When officials in state agencies abuse their power or engage in unethical financial activity, they are defrauding tax payers and the government,” said Gary Falkowitz, Managing Attorney at Parker Waichman LLP. “These types of actions need to be reported, and whistleblowers can play a crucial role in holding these parties responsible. They can also be financially rewarded for doing so.”
Parker Waichman LLP supports whistleblower efforts to report illegal activities that may harm citizens. The firm continues to offer free legal evaluations to those individuals who believe their companies may be involved in wrongdoing. If you believe that your company is involved in illegal activities, or for more information, please visit the firm’s Whistleblower page at yourlawyer.com or call 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).