A case of alleged whistleblower retaliation involving a former Vermont state employee who claimed she was wrongfully fired for speaking out against contract corruption has been settled.
The Burlington Free Press reports that Jacqui Carlomagno, a former grants administrator for Vermont’s Agency of Education, sued the State after she was fired in June 2015 for calling attention to the alleged abuse of federal education funds. Ms. Carlomagno claims the state fired her because of her whistleblower activity.
Ms. Carlomagno’s allegations centered on the education agency’s handling of federally funded early childhood education grants. In her whistleblower lawsuit, she alleged that the agency officials improperly awarded contracts to people they knew instead of going through a competitive bid process, the Burlington Free Press reported.
She also voiced concerns about a lack of checks and balances that she claims failed to prevent the alleged abuse of federal education funds.
Her complaint triggered an investigation by State Auditor Doug Hoffer, who uncovered several cases in which education officials improperly awarded contracts as Ms. Carlomagno had claimed.
The State and the Agency of Education denied any wrongdoing and claimed that Ms. Carlomagno was fired for poor work habits, not because she raised concerns as a whistleblower.
The case was resolved when the state of Vermont agreed to pay Ms. Carlomagno $31,500 in back pay and emotional distress. The state also agreed to restore her previous status in a state retirement plan and five days of personal leave, as well as clear her employment record.
Ms. Carlomagno, who now works for the Vermont Department of Labor, also wants Vermont to establish a process for independently investigating accusations of whistleblower retaliation against government employees.
“Aside from a personally difficult process for me and especially for my family, the experience was positive since the result was greater oversight over the integrity of the Vermont government contracting process by the Vermont Auditor’s Office,” Ms. Carlomagno told the Burlington Free Press.
She also told the Free Press that she had no regrets for blowing the whistle on the alleged misconduct.
“Looking back over a very difficult time, I would say that I would do the same thing again because whistleblowers are an important tool in fighting waste and abuse in government,” she said.