SAVANNAH, Ga. – A former Chatham County, Ga., employee has taken legal measures preceding a possible whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against the county, alleging she was fired for calling out multiple, longstanding problems in the agency’s management of permits and funds.
The Savannah Morning News reports that Shaundra Smith-McKeithen, who managed business licenses and permits for the Occupational Tax Office, was terminated on Aug. 27, 2014. Ms. Smith-McKeithen alleges she uncovered “serious financial deficiencies” in her department that stretching back for years.
Ms. Smith-McKeithen had been hired to the county position the preceding March and was still in probationary status when she was fired. Her lawyer told the Savannah Morning News that Ms. Smith-McKeithen’s complaints about improper training, poor policies, and inadequate staffing in the department were validated by an audit conducted in September 2014.
A similar audit conducted in 2012 mirrored problems Ms. Smith-McKeithan expressed concerns about, particularly the mishandling of payments, yet there is no evidence to show the department tried to correct them.
Ms. Smith-McKeith’s lawyer told the Savannah Morning News that it doesn’t matter his client was in a probation status when the Building Safety and Regulatory Services Department fired her because “the Whistleblower Act trumps any spurious attempt by the county to avail itself of a defense on that basis.”
Ms. Smith-Keithem’s lawyer filed an ante litem notice of claim for his client claiming that her termination was unlawful, saying he was giving Chatham County enough time to investigate the matter and avoid litigation, the Savannah Morning News reported.
Last November, the Savannah Morning News reported on the September audit, which found “a lack of security and documentation surrounding the collection of payments,” among other serious problems, including thousands of dollars in shortages stemming from cash-related functions and deposits not being made in a timely manner.