Whistleblower Suit Filed Against Kentucky Court Office

(CN) – A Kentucky court system employee claims in a whistleblower lawsuit that he was suspended after reporting waste and fraud in his office, including one company being awarded services contracts without competitive bidding.

Scott Brown sued the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts, or AOC, in Franklin County Circuit Court on Wednesday. He says he has worked for the office since 1999.

During his tenure as executive officer of administrative services, Brown has “never received a written reprimand or disciplinary action,” according to the lawsuit.

In 2014, Brown says he reported to his supervisor about the conduct of a manager at the Department of Facilities.

Brown stated his concerns that HVAC contracts were being awarded to a certain company without going through the competitive bidding process, his complaint states.

Brown also claims he reported that this manager had “improperly used a state-owned vehicle” that had been assigned to him.

Although the manager resigned, Brown continued to report his concerns that millions of dollars worth of unauthorized HVAC repairs were taking place across Kentucky between 2014 and 2016, according to the complaint.

In addition, Brown claims he discovered that no formal lease agreements were in place for approximately 60 percent of the lease space occupied by Court of Justice programs.

Brown says he also reported that double payments on janitorial contracts had been made to a company whose owner had a personal relationship with the unnamed manager who had resigned.

All of these reports became too much for the AOC director, Brown says. She could not “deal with all of this,” according to the lawsuit.

In addition, the director “was very upset with Brown” over his involvement in an audit of guardian ad litem payments, the complaint states.

After the AOC operations manager was relieved of her duties involving the office’s facilities, anonymous complaints about Brown came into the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, he says.

Investigators allegedly interrogated him about his purchase of surplus AOC vehicles.

“During the interrogation, Brown was referred to as a ‘liar’ and was threatened with comments such as ‘how much financial trouble are you in, is that why you did this,” the lawsuit states.

Brown says he was placed on paid leave for 10 days and had to turn in his AOC laptops.

The office’s human resource director told Brown “to consider his options, retire or do something else,” according to the lawsuit.

Later, the AOC gave Brown the choice to either retire or lose his job, he claims. Brown discovered that he would not be eligible for retirement until he turned 55.

Brown alleges that during a purported exit meeting, the deputy director cried and said, “This is so wrong.”

Though Brown says he was asked to pick up his personal property last month, his lawsuit notes that he is still employed with the AOC.

“During Brown’s employment with the Kentucky Administrative Office of Courts, Brown reported and disclosed, to his supervisors in good faith, facts and information relative to suspected violations of law and actual or suspected mismanagement, waste, fraud, [and] abuse of authority,” the complaint states. “Because of Brown’s disclosures…he was subjected to retaliation and reprisal, which culminated in Brown’s being placed on unpaid leave.”

Brown sued the AOC for alleged violations of the state whistleblower law, seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

He is represented by Thomas Clay of the Louisville law firm of Clay Frederick Adams, along with attorneys Mark Wohlander of Lexington and Thomas Jones of Beattyville, Ky.

The AOC denied Brown’s allegations and said in a statement that his suspension expires June 30.

“Mr. Brown’s impending termination is solely the result of a loss of trust and confidence in his management abilities,” AOC Director Laurie K. Dudgeon said. “To characterize this as anything else is completely unfounded.”

Dudgeon added that the AOC cannot comment on the lawsuit in detail, but said the allegation that Brown is a whistleblower is without merit.

“As head of the Auditing Services and Facilities divisions, it was Mr. Brown’s duty and responsibility to report these things to management, which he did,” she said. “Corrective measures were taken immediately to address the issues that were raised.”

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