State Supreme Court clears way for whistle-blower suit - CBS46 News

State Supreme Court clears way for whistle-blower suit to proceed

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Their jobs were to report waste and fraud, but a Fulton County employee and a former employee said the county retaliated against them when they threatened to blow the whistle on an allegations of rampant corruption.

Gwendolyn Warren and Maria Colon worked for the Office of Professional Standards, the now-defunct watchdog arm of Fulton County government.

They accused employees in one county department of stealing taxpayer money intended for the homeless.

And in another case a supervisor used his authority to ask employees for sex, the plaintiffs said.

"There were jobs being offered for sexual favors, there was a kickback scheme on technology contracts in which Fulton County employees had interests and a wedding planning company was funded by Fulton county taxpayers," said Lee Parks, the lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs said that when they threatened go to the district attorney's office, Warren was fired, Colon was demoted and their department was shut down.

"My clients for fired for reporting criminal activity," Parks said. "The county's response was most of the commissioners want you gone."

Colon and Warren said that from 2009 through 2011 several employees in the Fulton County Human Services Department redirected $163,000 of taxpayer money to an event  planning business.

"Over $163,000 of taxpayer money went to pay for a private wedding planning company that was run out of Fulton County community centers," Parks said.

The women filed suit.

The county declared "sovereign immunity," claiming that the state constitution protects the county from whistle-blower suits.

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday upheld a lower court's ruling, rejecting the county's claim, clearing the way for the suit.

"At the end of the day we're going to find responsibility for the this type of retaliation at the highest levels of Fulton County government," Parks said.

R. David Ware, the attorney for county, said in a written statement that Colon and Warren are not whistle-blowers.

"To allege that other employees engaged in criminal wrongdoing and to intimate that persons ‘… at the highest levels of Fulton County government …' engaged in ‘wrongdoing,' all in the hopes of extracting payment from the county, is reckless," Ware said.

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