The Newfarmer Whistleblower Suit
Sierra County has received a complaint for damages and an invitation to a jury trail over the events in Sierra County Child Welfare Services.
The claim asks for money, and for protection from retaliation by the Social Services division of Sierra County Health and Human Services.
Claimant Jean Newfarmer, an experienced and recognized social worker for Sierra County, alleges that because she reported a violation of law she was punished; the law prohibits that.
A “whistleblower” is an employee who discloses information to a government or law enforcement agency where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses:
1. A violation of a state or federal statute,
2. A violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation, or
3. With reference to employee safety or health, unsafe working conditions or work practices in the employee’s employment or place of employment.
From the State Division of Labor Standards Enforcement
The claim alleges that Newfarmer found errors in the Child Welfare Services court case of “JM” and when she brought those errors to her supervisor’s attention, he punished her.
The complaint stems from the County’s handling of a CWS case which the SC CWS refused to close. The case became controversial when local newspapers including the Prospect and The Mountain Messenger Newspaper complained of the handling of the family. Newfarmer was assigned to the case and decided the family had met its case plan objectives and should be released. Marks, perhaps at the urging of Roberts, refused. It is claimed he then rewrote Newfarmer’s work and tried to coerce her to sign it. She refused, since it would be fraud to do so. Ultimately, the family also made a claim against the County, which has not yet been resolved.
The suit alleges that the agency searched Newfarmer’s desk and personal effects in the office, and Marks admitted breaking a lock to review items in a filing cabinet. Newfarmer was forced to have an alcohol test in violation of county policy, and defendants attempted to coerce her into providing information about a lawsuit against the county. The County further engaged in other activities to defame and otherwise harass Newfarmer, including releasing the results of a confidential test. This last, if confirmed, carries legal penalties.
In addition to naming Dr. Carol Roberts, Director of HHS, James Marks, who was the supervisor in the case, Jodi Benson, social worker, James Curtis, County Council, it names Larry Allen, District Attorney and Van Maddox, in their capacity of personnel managers. It also names Carol Iman, Sierraville resident who is described as a social worker and Union representative for California United Homecare Workers Union in the suit. The suit claims that Iman, either on her own volition or at the direction of someone at HHS, set about to draw negative attention to Newfarmer and discredit her in the community.
Some speculate that, if Iman was working under direction from superiors at HHS, she might now also want to sue the County.
The Whistleblower suit focuses yet more attention on Dr. Carol Roberts, who continues to divide the Board of Supervisors. The “JM” case stirred libertarian sentiments in the community which tends toward conservative views. The divisions on the Board and in the community are having negative impacts, and there is a sense of expectancy, an impatience for a resolution, and some wonder if this added suit, which alleges the kind of dirty dealing at HHS some community members have complained about, might be the catalyst.