Whistleblower's lawsuit alleges severe mismanagement of money in Lee Co.

CREATED Jan. 22, 2014

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FORT MYERS, Fla. - A former Lee County employee is suing the county over unpaid overtime and the case could blow the lid off some things the county might not want you to know. The suit claims the county mistreated employees and fired them when they spoke up. Four In Your Corner Investigator Dave Culbreth combing through pages of documents to show you how your tax dollars are being spent.

Filing a lawsuit because you see things happen, and are asked to do things that are not right is not easy. But, when you speak up, then they fire you, and in the process didn't pay you for the overtime you worked... that's a different story. And that's why one woman is now suing Lee County.

"They did the right thing and now they're being punished," says Benjamin Yormak, an employment attorney. He's talking about his client, Lisa Wagner, who worked as an administrative assistant in Lee County's Economic Development Office. According to a federal whistleblower lawsuit filed Wednesday, she saw the way the county was spending the taxpayers dollars and didn't like it.
"When Ms. Wagner spoke up and did the right thing she was subject to a campaign of retaliation that led to her termination along with five other coworkers who did the same thing," explained Yormak.

The suit says Ms. Wagner saw county business routed to a marketing manager's husband's company. It says $22,000 was paid to the husband's company for 200 notebook folders, which are just $10 each on the internet. "Ms. Wagner and her coworkers knew about these kind of things and brought it to light," Yormak added. Including, they say, changing contracts. Like one to show the marketing managers husband wasn't paid $15,000 but $7,500 so that it would not appear that her husband received the entire amount. "There were certain contract prices that were changed after the ink was dry, obviously, that's not legal," Yormak said.

Something else not legal, they say, is that records were removed from another employees desk who took notes of meetings then weeks later they were returned with some of the notes deleted. "Ms. Wagner personally witnessed that the minutes of certain minutes were being changed," continued Yormak. "Not just slightly, but re-written to as not properly reflect the actual minutes of the meeting."

FOX4 contacted county officials. No one wanted to do an interview with me but they released this statement; "We now have had the opportunity to briefly review the litigation that was filed. On the face of the complaint, the claims appear to lack merit. We look forward to further review and advocating the interests of Lee County," said Richard Wesch, an attorney for Lee County.

The suit also says Ms. Wagner was not the only whistleblower fired, that the new Director of Economic Development, Glen Salyer, fired five of six people who cooperated in an audit within his first ten weeks on the job.