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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

DOT Whistleblower fears for job after coworker fired for talking to Fox 4

Steve Sherman - Fired DOT Whistleblower
I've spoken with dozens of disgruntled DOT workers, but Steve Sherman was the first one to go on-camera. He thinks the county is trying to send a strong message to whistleblowers.

Minutes seemed like hours as DOT worker Steve Sherman waited to find out if he still had a job.
Finally, Sherman and 2 of his supervisors were met by Stephanie Figueroa with Lee County's Human Resources, and that's when he got the news.  "They terminated me and wrongfully I may add." Steve Sherman says. Sherman was officially fired. Officials claim it's because they just realized Sherman violated several county policies. One of the policies included having his driver's license suspended back in 2004 for a DUI arrest, when his position required him to have a valid driver's license.

But documents show supervisors accepted this and re-assigned Sherman to a position that didn't require him to drive. Fox 4 asked Sherman if he thought HR even gave him a chance? "No this is a total railroad whitewash in my opinion, personally. They didn't even want to discuss item by item the material that I supplied them with last week." Sherman says. County officials claim Sherman was fired now because they decided to change his job title, and while looking through his records they found some baggage that was overlooked in his past.

Sherman says he was really fired because he spoke with FOX 4 about problems at DOT. Our reports prompted the county manager to order an audit of DOT. Sherman then filed for whistleblower protection.

"I think they're trying to instill a fear that if you speak out and you're not a team player in line with HR or the county managers, you're going to be out of a job.” Sherman says.

That has another DOT worker very nervous. I’m sure I'm next on the hit list." Bob Maxey says.
Bob Maxey also spoke out about problems at DOT and feels Sherman's termination will have a chilling effect on all county workers. "It's gonna scare the hell out of them it scares people and it's a sure way to shut people up." Bob Maxey says.

Maxey now plans to file for whistleblower protection himself. Maxey hopes county workers will stand together and speak up despite what happened to Sherman.

I asked Maxey why’s he decided to talk to FOX 4.
"Because someone needed to light the fire, buddy. Someone needed to let people know what was going on." Maxey says.
Sherman plans to sue the county if his job is not reinstated.
An attorney tells us that Sherman has a good case because he filed for whistleblower protection and the county terminated him for issues that seem very suspicious.
To view the Fox 4 report click here:

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