Last December, POGO blogged about the case of Michael Paul, an employee of the state agency that oversees the management of California’s courthouses. Paul claimed he had been demoted because he tried to blow the whistle on misconduct occurring on maintenance and construction contracts. He thought the contractors were operating without the required licenses and were grossly overcharging for their services. Paul raised those concerns in a lawsuit he filed last month against his employer, the California Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), and the contractors involved in the alleged fraud, including Jacobs Engineering Group, one of the contractors in our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database.
Alas, just as one courthouse door opens up for Michael Paul, another one slams shut.
We just heard yesterday that the AOC fired Paul last week. In the comments section of last December’s post, Paul says that less than 48 hours after he received word that California’s Attorney General had forwarded his lawsuit to the AOC, he was put on administrative leave and then fired. Paul told Accountable California, that he was fired because he “blew the whistle in the wrong direction.” Apparently, his bosses didn’t like it that he took his concerns to the AOC employee overseeing the construction project instead of the AOC executive who oversees fraud and waste investigations—something that Paul claims he had already done, but which only resulted in his demotion.
To its credit, the AOC has filed lawsuits against the contractors, although as we noted last December those lawsuits concern the licensing issue, not the more serious fraud allegations. There is also a bill pending in California’s legislature that would amend the state’s whistleblower protection law to help others like Michael Paul. Incredibly, the law currently does not extend protections to court employees.
POGO fully sympathizes with the plight of Michael Paul and other California whistleblowers. For many years, we have been fighting an exhausting, exasperating battle to strengthen protections for federal whistleblowers. We hope good government advocates in the Golden State don’t have as tough a row to hoe.
-- Neil Gordon