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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Workers question if County audit is an investigation into Whistle blowers

Lee county's manager finally releases details about the audit into the Department of Transportation but some workers feel they're the ones being investigated for blowing the whistle.

Karen Hawes

Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason sparked the audit after uncovering numerous problems with the troubled department. But the audit has a big problem; all of the issues Fox 4 exposed are related to D-O-T's Operation's Center and the audit states it will only focus on D.O.T.'s Traffic Department. Some workers now accuse county manager Karen Hawes of using shady tactics to avoid the truth. D.O.T worker Steve Sherman tells Fox 4, "Anybody who's been watching the news that you've been airing, I mean a blind man would know the problem is at Operations."

Four in your Corner contacted County Manager Karen Hawes to find out why she didn't include the Operations Center in the audit and only then did she issue an email stating the scope will *now also* include an investigation into the D.O.T. Operations Center. Sherman says that makes him very suspicious of Karen Hawes, "She just doesn't want to get to the problem for some reason, there's something there that she's protecting."

Hawes says the objective of the D.O.T. audit is to address employee harassment, intimidation and retaliation and also look into D.O.T management and employee non-compliance with county policies. The actual scope of the audit will include Interviewing D.O.T employees, reviewing the performance of Human Resources for compliance with county policies, verifying time-keeping and payroll data and determining if there is any misuse of county resources.

Our investigation previously exposed workers who say they were fired for coming to work late even though records show they reported to work on time. Fox 4 also showed how supervisors are accused of delivering tons of free dirt to family members while other residents have been told they will be put on a long waiting list if they want some dirt. Tom Mere is a Lee County resident and a North Fort Myers Firefighters Commissioner but he didn't receive any special favors when he requested dirt. He's been waiting for more than a year to have dirt delivered to a mobile home park he owns in North Fort Myers.

Steve Sherman
Fox 4 has also exposed supervisors who are accused of harassing employees. Sherman claims he is *still* being harassed because he blew the whistle on D.O.T. and spoke with us about the problems within the department. Supervisors have notified him that county officials have been rifling through his personnel records. Sherman says it doesn't surprise him, "I have nothing to hide, bring 'em on. Let them do what they've got to do. They're going to find nothing and they're going to look foolish at the end of it all."

And the buck stops with Karen Hawes, she's the top dog at Lee County and is paid 192-thousand dollars a year as county manager. Sherman doesn't feel Hawes is working to make Lee County a better place for employees, "I don't believe she's doing justice by the workers or the taxpayers."
To view the Fox 4 report click here:

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