Friday, August 16, 2019

Jacksonville whistleblower retaliation blown off by Public Radio host Melissa Ross on WJCT This Morning

Melissa Ross, NPR affiliate WJCT's "First Coast Connect" host does not know what a whistleblower is, apparently. Sad. This morning, a caller from Flagler Beach called in to her radio program and referred to Joseph Peppers as being a whistleblower. She oddly upbraided him, saying he was not a whistleblower because he had merely written a memorandum, documenting pressures to award grants to cronies.

No, Melissa, writing a memo is protected activity under whistleblower case precedents.

The reason I know this is long experience, including my first trial, DeFord v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 90-ERA-60, a nuclear whistleblower case that involved writing a memo to the Chairman of TVA, Marvin Runyon, about layoffs and nuclear safety.

I've also represented a majority of Administrative Law Judges in the U.S. Department of the Interior -- harassed, intimidated and threatened with firing, simply for insisting on judicial independence. They wrote and signed a memo on it. Under Bush, the DoI's response was a retaliatory referral to the Inspector General for sending a one-page fax supporting the Chief ALJ, fired for protected activity in supporting them.

Writing a memo is classic protected activity. Ms. Ross owes her listeners an explanation, or apology, or both.

I was honored to ride circuit and assist whistleblowers and try whistleblower cases across the United States of America, including cases where judges, scientists, engineers, truck drivers and other ethical Americans were punished for being honest.

I've written about whistleblowers for American Bar Association publications.

My publications on human rights issues include ABA Judges Journal, Barrister, Human Rights and Student Lawyer.

WJCT needs to raise its consciousness. I am contemplating filing a license renewal challenge against this second-rate NPR affiliate.

CEO of Kids Hope Alliance placed on leave while under investigation

Joe Peppers wrote last year that he was pressured on grant awards

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Kelly Wiley - I-TEAM reporter
The head of Jacksonville's office that handles children’s programs was placed on paid leave Wednesday. News4Jax reported that Joe Peppers, CEO of the Kids Hope Alliance, is under investigation by the city's inspector general. 
The Kids Hope Alliance is a joint program between the city and the State Attorney’s Office to help underserved youth.
Last September, Peppers wrote an email to two city employees that said he was pressured by Mayor Lenny Curry’s top staffers to steer grant money for a Stop the Violence Campaign to certain groups.
I am stating for public record that I do not agree with the approach dictated to me by the mayors office regarding the facilitation of the RFP (request for proposals) for the $50k grants and the $300k grants. I am also going on record as stating that I believe that I’m under undue influence from the mayors office. Two of the mayor’s direct reports have intimated to me that they expect me to pass certain applicants based on their discretion regardless of how they score on the RFP," Peppers wrote in an email datad Sept. 8, 2018.
In a statement, Peppers said that after sending the email and holding several meetings, the problems were resolved.
The city’s chief administrative officer, Brian Hughes, released a statement Wednesday saying Peppers was never pressured to do anything unethical. The mayor’s office said it could not release additional details about the investigation into Peppers, citing confidentiality of the inspector general’s work.
Jacksonville Democrats have called for the state attorney and the U.S. attorney to investigate the situation in addition to the city inspector general.
Peppers, a West Point graduate and Army veteran, was appointed to the Kids Hope Alliance board, then resigned to apply to become the organization's CEO. He was hired last year at a starting salary of $175,000.
Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.

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