State worker fired after reporting ethics violation - CBS46 News

Only on CBS Atlanta

State worker fired after reporting Regent's ethics violation, fights for job back

Posted: Updated:

Todd Brandenburg, of Evans, has been fighting Georgia's Board of Regents since he was fired from the Georgia Medical College in Augusta in 2005. 

Brandenburg said the board mismanaged his appeal, upheld an unjust termination and failed to adhere to Georgia's open record laws.  

"I'd like the Board of Regents to go through the appeals process and do it right," said Brandenburg, who worked as an X-ray technician at GMC for 16 years. 

Brandenburg was fired three weeks after he said he made a complaint about a possible conflict of interest involving one of his bosses, Regent Don Leebern Jr. 

Leebern was eventually disciplined and fined $37,750 by the State Ethics Commission and still serves on the Board of Regents.

Meanwhile, Brandenburg has spent $70,000 fighting his termination in court.

Vice Chancellor of the Board of Regents Burns Newsome denied to CBS Atlanta investigative reporter Jeff Chirico that Brandenburg's termination was motivated by his ethics complaint against Leebern.

He said Brandenburg was fired for allegedly telling a patient's father that he had "the most stinkiest feet," which Newsome called "a patently offensive comment."

But the patient's father wrote in a sworn affidavit that he wasn't offended by any comment Brandenburg made and didn't report it to hospital officials. He wrote that hospital officials tried to convince him to sign a complaint against Brandenburg to justify his termination - an effort he referred to with an expletive. 

Brandenburg provided an email he said he received through an open records request that shows the then hospital president, Don Snell, was not pleased with the ethics complaint against Leebern and was ready to discipline those involved in the fallout. 

Brandenburg sued the Board of Regents for not turning over public documents he believed he needed to prove his case in a due process hearing. But Brandenburg said he was still waiting for documents when the board voted to deny his appeal in 2010.  Newsome contended the Board turned over all the documents that existed.

A previous CBS Atlanta investigation found Regents may be shirking their responsibilities when handling appeals filed by terminated employees or expelled students.  

During his eight-year fight, Brandenburg said he sank into depression and lost his side business and his marriage. He said he doesn't believe the board truly considered the impact their decisions have on the people unjustly fired.  

Although appointed by the governor, Regents answer to no one despite managing nearly $2 billion in tax dollars a year. 

"To have an entity like the Board of Regents operating in pretty much complete isolation and autonomy is very dangerous," said Nancy Abudu, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Brandenburg has found work as a mobile X-ray technician but continues to fight the Board of Regents in court in hopes of exposing what he calls a broken system that protects the powerful. 

"If it's not fixed, if somebody doesn't look at it strongly and do what's right, then other people are going to get taken advantage of," said Brandenburg.

Copyright 2013 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.