A former Valdosta State Prison Corrections Captain who filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections persuaded a jury that he was wrongfully fired for complaining about orders he claimed were illegal and dangerous.
Captain Sherman Maine objected to orders that he provide an inmate working undercover with a cellphone as part of a sting operation Corrections was conducting to identify corrupt guards.
According to the Daily Report, the scheme nearly got the informer killed in January 2012 when new prisoners transferred to Valdosta State Prison recognized him from his role in a similar operation at another prison. The informer inmate was stabbed 19 times. He was transferred to another prison after he recovered.
Mr. Maine, who started working as a corrections officer in 2001 and rapidly rose up the ranks, claimed he was put on administrative leave after he threatened to disclose the operation.
It is illegal to provide a cell phone to a prison inmate without written authorization from the warden, which Mr. Maine said his superiors did not have. Worried about the operation and the safety of the informant, Mr. Maine wrote to the Georgia Department of Correction Commissioner stating his objections to the scheme. The lawsuit says Mr. Maine was fired on Aug. 23, 2014, in retaliation for speaking out against the operation.
Mr. Maine sued the Department of Corrections in August 2015, alleging he was terminated for objecting to and disclosing a violation of Georgia law. Georgia, like most states, has whistleblower laws intended to protect employees who call out regulatory violations, illegal activity, and other wrongdoing.
On Oct. 23, a Lowndes County Superior Court jury found that the Georgia Department of Corrections “retaliated against Plaintiff Sherman Maine for his engaging in activity protected by the Georgia Whistleblower Act when it terminated his employment,” according to the Valdosta Daily Times.
Mr. Maine’s lawyer told the Daily Report that his client seeks back and front pay as well as lost retirement benefits, attorney fees, and other legal expenses. The amount of damages the Georgia Department of Corrections will have to pay Mr. Maine will be determined during a bench trial.
Mr. Maine, whose law enforcement career was ruined by becoming a whistleblower and standing up for the right thing, is now working as a tree doctor – his profession before he started his career in corrections.