Nov. 18, 2013 — Two Fulton County whistleblowers may proceed with legal claims that they lost their jobs in retaliation for reporting misuse of taxpayers’ funds, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled today. The decision strengthens the state’s whistleblower law by holding that the law protects all public employees, not just those who work in state-funded programs, and dismissing Fulton County’s defense of sovereign immunity.
A child molestor who spent 22 months too long in prison can sue Fulton County court officials for mishandling papers that would have led to his release, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled today. Former Fulton County Superior Court Clerk Juanita Hicks cannot claim immunity from liability, the high court ruled in a unanimous decision, because the error breached her statutory duty to notify prison officials of the man’s reduced sentence.
Two Fulton County employees who lost their jobs are not whistleblowers, attorneys for the county say, but even if they were, they can’t sue the county. The workers say they were caught up in a backlash against a politically sensitive probe of the misuse of county funds. Now the county contends it is immune from claims under Georgia’s whistleblower law — an argument that could undermine such suits across the state.
Georgia’s Supreme Court has ruled that a Thomas County woman may proceed with a lawsuit alleging negligence in her 18-year-old son’s death at a state-run mental health and drug addiction center. The decision, which extends the definition of a state employee to include a contract worker, has broader implications as governments continue to downsize and outsource functions to private contractors.