Tag Archives: whistleblower

TDOC brings charges; critics see retaliation against whistleblower

The state Department of Corrections has brought criminal charges against a prison guard who copied a recording on another officer being beaten and apparently distributed it to media, according to WSMV TV.

Elaine Rollison was charged with bringing contraband into a prison, the Turney Center Industrial Complex in Hickman County — the contraband being the cell phone she used to make a copy of a video showing the beating of a correctional officer.

…“Every action taken by Officer Rollison was taken with the best interests and safety of the correctional officers employed at the Turney Center in mind. She committed no unlawful acts and broke no laws,” said Jonathan Farmer, her attorney, in an email statement.

The Department of Correction disagreed, not only having her arrested but placing her under investigation.

“Officer Rollison was arrested on charges of introduction of contraband, a Class E felony,” TDOC said in a written statement. “At this time she is on leave. An investigation is ongoing and still very active. No further information is available at this time…. (T)he introduction of contraband of any kind, by anyone, is a felony and will not be tolerated by the Tennessee Department of Correction. Our agents work diligently to investigate contraband cases across the state and we will vigorously prosecute those cases.”

…“This is the most unprecedented act of retaliation I have witnessed in this state,” said state Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville.

Stewart, a frequent critic of the Department of Correction, believes Rollison is being targeted for being a whistleblower.

“The notion of charging someone criminally for that is completely unprecedented, completely outrageous and it must be nothing else but an act of retaliation,” said Stewart.

Stewart has now launched a website for correctional officers to send in information about prisons.

He said what happened to Rollison shows why the website is needed.

“So that people can remain anonymous and send information about the dangers they are facing behind the walls,” said Stewart.

Legislators Wanted to Outlaw Undercover Videos (like one on horse soring)

Two West Tennessee state legislators tried to pass a bill this year that would have made it a crime to conduct the kind of undercover investigation that produced video of horse abuse, reports Richard Locker. The video resulted in federal and state charges against a Collierville walking-horse trainer and three associates.
The bill was filed in January by state Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and appeared en route to passage in the Senate until it ran into opposition in a House subcommittee last month and died for the year.
As originally introduced, their bill — House Bill 3620/Senate Bill 3460 — would create a new state criminal offense “for a person to apply for employment with the intent to cause economic damage to the employer by means of unauthorized recording of video or audio while on the premises of the employer and releasing such recordings to a third party.”
The bill also declared that “All recordings taken in violation of this section shall be confiscated and, after used as evidence, destroyed.”
…A spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States said Thursday the Gresham-Holt bill would have made it illegal for the organization to have sent a representative undercover to work at Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s Whitter Stables in Fayette County near Collierville.
McConnell, 60, of Collierville, and three associates are charged in a 52-count federal indictment in Chattanooga with violating the federal Horse Protection Act. He also faces state charges of violating Tennessee’s Cruelty to Animals Act.
The Humane Society released its undercover video Thursday, showing horses being prodded with electric prods, having chemicals applied to their legs, struck with sticks and subjected to other abuses. (Note: the video is available HERE.)
HSUS said the video was shot in 2011 at Whitter Stables by an undercover representative who applied for a job and worked at the stables for about seven weeks. The video aired on ABC’s “Nightline” Wednesday night and “Good Morning America” on Thursday and is now posted on the HSUS website. The abuses it shows have sparked outrage nationally.
….Holt could not be reached Thursday but Gresham said she wasn’t aware of the HSUS investigation at any time, doesn’t know McConnell and that the bill’s purpose was to ensure that such recordings “get to law enforcement, not to third parties.”
“I just went to the HSUS website and saw the video that they had put on the website. That video needs to be on (Fayette County Dist. Atty.) Mike Dunavant’s desk, not on the internet.”
Gresham said it should be up to law enforcement whether to make videos publicly available, regardless of the Humane Society’s position that posting it raises public awareness of abuse

$41M Settlement in ET Medicare Fraud Case

In a case that mirrors the Biblical tale of a David, the lowly shepherd boy who defeated a giant, federal authorities on Tuesday revealed that two workers in a global firm with a work force 6,000 strong would prove the undoing of a business they say defrauded taxpayer coffers of untold millions in nearly a decade.
More from Jamie Satterfield’s account:
Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday a $41.8 million civil fraud settlement in a “whistle-blower” lawsuit against international medical equipment supply company, Hill-Rom Company Inc.
The settlement is the largest ever recovered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. The negotiated settlement, however, is likely a drop in the bucket to the actual amount authorities allege Hill-Rom overbilled the Medicare federal insurance program from 1999 to 2007.
Hill-Rom, a global firm headquartered in Batesville, Ind., agreed to the settlement to avoid criminal prosecution for years-long improper billing to Medicare for various equipment used to help treat bed sores for patients, Killian said.
“Hill-Rom submitted false claims for medical equipment for patients who did not qualify for the equipment, including patients who had died, were no longer using the equipment or had been moved to nursing homes,” Killian said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Betsy Tonkin said a 2003 internal audit alerted Hill-Rom to billing problems, but the firm did nothing to correct them.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, Hill-Rom denied any intentional wrongdoing.
“Hill-Rom is dedicated to the highest standards of business conduct and integrity. We vigorously disagree that there was any wrongdoing in this situation and this settlement does not represent any admission on our part. We remain committed to adherence with all applicable laws and regulations,” the statement read.
Two registered nurses — Laurie Salmon of Knoxville and Lisa Brocco of Nashville — in 2005 filed a lawsuit under the False Claims Act in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, an action known as a “whistle-blower” lawsuit and kept under seal while authorities investigate the claim.

Knox Ordinance: If you’re not a Whistleblower, you will be fired

From now on, if Knox County employees do not report fraudulent, illegal or wasteful activity in their department or by their co-workers they will face disciplinary action, even termination, reports the News Sentinel.
That’s according to an ordinance passed on second and final reading by the Knox County Commission at its Aug. 22 meeting and sponsored by Commission Chairman Mike Hammond.
“We’re not really trying to go on witch hunts,” Hammond said. “We want to make sure if an employee knows of this kind of activity going on, they have an obligation to report it.”
….Hammond said it was motivated by the actions of the late John Evans, former Solid Waste director who died in 2007, and Bruce Wuethrich, former director of Engineering and Public Works, who oversaw the Solid Waste Department during part of the time the county auditor presented a critical report to commission showing $500,000 in misused funds from 2003 to 2010. Neither Evans nor Wuethrich reported to the commission the questionable activities at the county’s mulch facilit