- The fired manager of the Los Angeles Community College District’s $3.3 billion construction bond program has filed a whisteblower complaint, claiming that he was let go in retaliation for publicly raising questions about management and other problems with the program, the Los Angeles Times reported.
- David Salazar said he was fired for bringing to the forefront supposed problems like overspending by a program contractor; underutilization of classroom space, which made the amount of construction specified in the bond program’s ballot measure unnecessary; and an examination of the contractor hiring process. Officials said Salazar was let go because of an unsatisfactory performance review and that the district’s bond manager will investigate Salazar’s allegations.
- Salazar is currently out on paid administrative leave, but, as part of the complaint, he is asking for full reinstatement or $1.6 million to cover five years of wages and benefits.
Whistleblower complaints are one way that corruption or other malfeasance can be rooted out of public agencies, but they can also be used to make the government aware of private industry misdeeds as well. And whistleblowers in both the public and private sectors are entitled to protection against retaliation from their employers after making a complaint, as Boston-based contractor Tara Construction learned in March.
The U.S. Department of Labor filed suit against Tara in March claiming that the contractor, in an act of retaliation, facilitated the arrest of one of its employees after he reported a workplace injury. After the report, Tara CEO Pedro Pirez supposedly contacted law enforcement, expressed concerns about the employee’s identity and then helped police set up an arrest outside of Tara’s offices. The employee was in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for days.
In February, a former Stantec employee, Jeff Werner, filed a whistleblower complaint against the company in California superior court, reported Honolulu Civil Beat, claiming that he was fired after he discovered that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation was not following “mandatory change order procedures” as part of its management of the $9 billion Honolulu rail project. Werner alleges that HART deliberately dragged its feet on processing change orders because of funding issues, a policy that resulted in significant additional overpayment and litigation costs. HART must now provide all of the project’s change order documents to the court.
A report from the Hawaii state auditor also raised concerns about HART’s handling of change orders, as well as many other agency management practices. In February, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a subpoena to HART for approximately 30,000 documents related to the rail project.