Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Whistleblower fired?

Update: Copy of termination letter is posted below. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the city of Jackson fired an employee who spoke to the media.  The Clarion-Ledger reported:

Startled by the shiny, corroded band of lead connecting two pieces of pipe together, he began informing the public of his discovery.

Now, the near-graduate is out of a job.

On March 24, the city fired Yaeger from his full-time position.

Yaeger's said that in his job he was responsible for inspecting new water lines and preparing contract documents, among other tasks. He had just acquired the responsibility of managing the city’s storm water permit and said he was even expecting a promotion....

Public Works Director Keshia Powell terminated the Jackson State University student less than two weeks after he presented the lead joint to the Clarion-Ledger, which prompted a story about lead materials within the city’s water distribution system.

“I was disappointed in the decision of the director to, in my view, put the reputation of the city before the safety of the public,” Yaeger said. “I think what I did is ethically right.”

Mayor Tony Yarber’s spokeswoman, Shelia Byrd, did not return calls to the Clarion-Ledger on Tuesday, but emailed a statement. “It is City policy not to comment on personnel matters,” she wrote.
In a letter the city provided Yaeger at the time of his termination, Powell writes that Yaeger admitted to the department that he had spoken to a reporter and provided the lead joint to a noncity employee...
 Rest of article.
 Mississippi Whistleblower law

Kingfish note:  Mississippi Code Section 25-9-171 states a whistleblower is:

(j) "Whistleblower" means an employee who in good faith reports an alleged improper governmental action to a state investigative body, initiating an investigation. For purposes of the provisions of Sections 25-9-171 through 25-9-177, the term "whistleblower" also means an employee who in good faith provides information to a state investigative body, or an employee who is believed to have reported alleged improper governmental action to a state investigative body or to have provided information to a state investigative body but who, in fact, has not reported such action or provided such information.


Anonymous said...

Are you still a whistle blower if you report to the media rather than an oversight or agency?

Anonymous said...

They are ALL incompetent and need to be fired.

Anonymous said...

The media should have kept his name secret.

Anonymous said...

11:22 Or at least his race.

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, the state whistleblower law is limited to reports to the AG, the Ethics Commission, and some other state agencies.

So you can't just run straight to the media whenever something bad happens and dare the city to fire you.

That would explain why Louis Watson says he's suing Jackson on a First Amendment claim. Although I'd be interested to hear the theory on how this info was not part of the scope of Yaeger's employment, which would make his statements unprotected.

Anonymous said...

While there may be some sort of state protection available, a public employee cannot be fired for speaking to the media (or really anyone) about a matter of public concern. Under 42 USC section 1983 and the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the city can be held liable. And there is the McArn case in state court which sets a public policy exception to the at-will employment rule, which holds that you cannot terminate someone for refusing to participate in an illegal activity (which, arguably, covering up lead pollution in drinking water would be).

Anonymous said...

Termination hearing at the Metro center? I'd take my chances on living and pass. Tell them they can keep it, my life is too important.

Anonymous said...

"So you can't just run to the media...."

Dumbass, that's exactly what we need! This guy should be celebrated for "running to the media" when misinformation is given to the tax-paying citizens. Remember, the city denied lead joints were in water system till they were forced to admit. Before then, it was the individual homeowners responsibility, and not the cities problem. You have to realize...if not for Anna Wolfe (Clarion Ledger) and her relentless inquisition, this story would've died out. Yeager should be supported by mayor and council, but oh wait....he's white. In the end, he will be exonerated, and in all likelihood, compensated for his actions. Louis Watson wouldn't take this on if he didn't feel he could win. Contaminated water is very pungent with Jackson citizens now, so either way it goes...Jackson looks bad!! Yeager will come out on top, and the city will lose on this issue....already has in the court of public opinion.

Anonymous said...

I was able to keep a straight face while reading the letter until I came to the part, "These actions have also placed the Department of Public Works in a false light, which may be damaging to the reputation of the Department, its employees, and the city."
Are they really talking about the same "Department " where so many employees were stealing water and selling it to those in the city? I would think a "Department" of thieves would be hard to damage their reputations beyond what they already have.

Anonymous said...

I really, really hate to say this but she is right. Apparently, most of you don't know enough about this to come to the correct conclusion and that is why this kid should not be talking to the paper. What matters is - are their unsafe levels of chemicals in the drinking water. So the investigation should be about the tests that are taken of the water and if there is any evidence of incompetence or fraud in taking and reporting these tests results, etc. It is quite possible that there are thousands of joints where two pieces of pipe are jammed together and the end of the joint is filled with hot lead and the lead is not contaminating the water and never will. Again, the water samples would answer that. Understand that the male end of the pipe could extend a foot or so past the place where the lead is placed and the lead never touches drinking water. But this kid, and the newspaper reporter, and much of the general public does not understand this. So the public gets panicked about something that might not be a problem. I hope this was clear to ya'll.

Anonymous said...

(j) "Whistleblower" means an employee who in good faith reports an alleged improper governmental action to a state investigative body, initiating an investigation. For purposes of the provisions of Sections 25-9-171 through 25-9-177, the term "whistleblower" also means an employee who in good faith provides information to a state investigative body, or an employee who is believed to have reported alleged improper governmental action to a state investigative body or to have provided information to a state investigative body but who, in fact, has not reported such action or provided such information.

"...state investigative body, initiating an investigation."

I think Clarion-Ledger falls in this category

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the statute. He's no whistle blower and will not receive those protections.

I assume 12:47 is being sarcastic.

Anonymous said...

A JSU engineer? lulz

He needs to go call Rudy.

A breach of engineering standards? Since when do engineers have client confidentiality?

Anonymous said...

Great job on civil conversation, 12:14. I'm sure your independent living classmates are proud of you.

No one is saying it shouldn't be reported. But governments do have a legitimate interest in insisting that employees come to them first, before appealing directly to the public. Likewise, the state has a legitimate interest in demanding that employees use the watchdog agencies it has set up (AG, auditor, ethics commission, etc.) before going to the media.

Otherwise, you have disgruntled employees with minor, fixable issues --NOT this guy, but the next guy-- who dash off to the press anytime their co-workers slip up, and then can't be fired.

Now, if that process fails, of course I support going to the media. But the argument here is that the process wasn't used. Whether that's true is a factual question for the court.

Anonymous said...

12:44 Lawyer representing the City of Jackson in the upcoming federal lawsuit?

Anonymous said...

12:47 -- No, it doesn't. Section 171 defines "state investigative body" as referring exclusively to certain government agencies.

Anonymous said...

"One call, thats all!"

Anonymous said...

"I really, really hate to say this but she is right..." -- Ok, sir...lets sit back, drink up, and wait for the information the city feels we should have. Sounds like a plan. I'm sure that's what they did in Flint too.

For me personally, I would rather be informed along the way, and draw my own conclusions. The facts are the water is not safe to drink. The train has already left the station. The public has already decided the water is contaminated, and the city leadership is incompetent. This young mans actions did not convince me of this, it only reinforced what we already all know.

Anonymous said...

Watchdog agencies are a waste. All they are good for is letting the employer know who to fire.
Any department filled with thieves would not even stop to think about making up a reason to fire anyone who might upset the gravy train.

Anonymous said...

Those of you defending the city on here either work for the city, or are idealistic optimists. Sure, I would love to believe in city officials, and I used to. But, I've seen to many examples that prove otherwise. The reality is our water system is not safe to drink, and we deserve answers.

Blow This said...

1) His actions do not meet the definition of whistleblower.

2) An employer is within its rights to have a policy prohibiting employees from speaking to the media and requiring that media inquiries be directed to a certain department or employee.

Anonymous said...

If you take the King's gold then you do the King's bidding. That is true IF the employee reported the problem to the boss first. If, however, the boss didn't work the problem and if it is a public health hazard then the employee needs to blow the whistle. Did the kid go directly to the CL or did the kid try to go through the chain-of-command? Just asking.

Anonymous said...

Engineers are not bound to any form of confidentiality agreement to a municipality. They actually have an ethical duty to identify and communicate anything they find or suspect to be a health hazard. If their management team decides to ignore or suppress that which was found, they have a right/duty to inform the public. The public is the true employer of any government employee. Their salary is paid from public funds. The firing of this employee screams, "We knew the issue and we are upset that it has been revealed publically." Also, it shows the power struggles that exist within the current administration. I'm wondering how long it will be before at least 5 of them are picked up by the Feds. Its only a matter of time. They are constantly bringing attention to all their wrong doings.

Anonymous said...

Department of Health or MDEQ would have been proper whistle-blowing avenues. The CL is not. The CL did this potentially well-meaning gentleman a disservice. That should be a lesson to folks who talk to CL reporters in the future.

That being said, Louis is a hell of a lawyer. He doesn't take cases he can't win. He'll find enough there to get the fellow paid.

Anonymous said...

When Jackson City Councilman Kenuff Stokes makes National headlines by encouraging the public to throw rocks, bricks, & bottles at the police, how is it possible for anyone to futher damage the City's reputation?

Anonymous said...

Anna Wolfe is HOT!

Anonymous said...

The water has been sh*t brown for years. If it hasn't made it to a "State investigative body" by now, then it never would make it via the proper channels.

Taste the tap!

Burke said...

Thanks, 12:44. And I agree with 2:54 that Louis Watson is a damn good lawyer.

What is Kishia Powell's background? And where do things stand with righting the wrongs of Siemens? Is anyone following that case anymore?

Anonymous said...

For those of you city defenders on here, I urge you to re-read this. And, you want us to believe the city is providing it's citizens with accurate, timely information. And, for an important issue like our water system!! Don't you get it, the media plays a vital role to ensure we are protected by the idiots running this clown show. And, it takes people on the inside providing info, and directing to find the answers. I hope Anna Wolfe doesn't get redirected, or grows weary, and will continue her push to find the truth, because if she doesn't...who will?? If it weren't for the media, the city would still be telling us it's fine to drink your water.

Anonymous said...

This kid is not a P.E. and he is suppose to honor who is paying him and not run to the paper. Anyone that reports to the new media not the their boss should and will be fired by all.

Anonymous said...

He's like 40 years old. Is that still a kid?

Anonymous said...


You idiot! It's his boss who is more worried about the image of the department over safety of it's citizens. Have you ever worked anywhere where things seems to disappear, or buried in files, or gets lost on someones desk? Why hasn't the reports requested via FOA act been provided to CL? Maybe because it will be detrimental to city image??

Anonymous said...

As to our Mayor I fear the worst: that Tony is in on the corruption at the City Water Dept. #NeverAgainTony

Anonymous said...

Be warned. If anyone is thinking of ratting out their boss or employer be sure to do it anonymously.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Powell is the highest paid city employee, right?

Anonymous said...


You damn skippy! $150,000!

Please Be Seated said...

Everybody seems to have an opinion. Fact is, the employee can be terminated for violating city policy regarding speaking to the media. If you don't like that, tough. It's a fact.

All his lawyer will get him is a successful unemployment insurance claim. Period. Nothing more. There is no 'wrongful termination' statute in this state that will result in his claim for damages.

In this state, an employer can 'terminate an employee for any reason or no reason at all as long as the reason is not illegal'. And this termination was clearly within the employer's right.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter if the firing was legal or not. The city will throw a big pile of our tax dollars at him to make him go away. That's what they do.

Anonymous said...

Really? Back up your claim with your name and a monetary amount.

Anonymous said...

"Please be Seated" is either a graduate of a basic business law course or in his first year of law school. Watson can make a prima facie case under the first amendment. At this point, that's all he needs to get the hooks in an embarrassed city reluctant to have all this fello's knowledge spread out in public record.

Anonymous said...

Here is an easy analogy for you folks who feel this firing is acceptable.

Let's say the city was poisoning the water supply, and employee saw this, and questioned his supervisor. Supervisors response is "don't worry, we know what we're doing. Worry about your own job responsibility". Employee goes home and thinks it over, and decides it's wrong, so he contacts the local media to report his findings.

What are employees options? Many of you seem to think employee should keep mouth shut, and forget about what he/she learned. Well, ok then. I guess government officials are the end-all, be-all decision makers, and we should trust everything they do and say.

Sorry to have to remind you, we don't live in North Korea where citizens don't have a voice. This clearly will end badly for the city, and Mr. Yeager will walk away with a nice settlement. Unfortunately for him, his employment options in Jackson will be limited. See, no one likes transparency...especially government.

Transparency is the key to accountability, and media outlets are the only voice for many who feel citizens should be informed. Thanks Mr. are either very courageous or very dumb.

Anonymous said...

8:35 - your analogy starts off pretty good. But then it falls into the trap that the modern "so called media" want us to follow - that they should be the repository of all that is known.

No. In this case, this engineer-to-be should be well aware of the regulatory bodies that would be very interested in this fact if in fact it is a problem. Go first to the DEQ; then to the EPA.

The media is in this to sell newspapers. And I'm glad they do it. But the termination of this guy's employment following the proper administrative procedures does not include his media appearances. If the regulatory bodies (so named because they regulate these activities of the city) don't act, then maybe there might be cause to go elsewhere. But to run to the CL with info that is interesting but has not been found to be damning, is not the proper path to a good solution.

Anonymous said...

7:13 could not be more wrong. No employee has a first amendment right to violate company policy. The point here is not whether you or I like the policy or 'feel' the employee should have spoken to the media. The point is the employer's right to have and enforce its policy as long as the policy is not in violation of public policy or law.

Your attempt to weave first amendment into this scenario fails. You might want to discuss your theory with an employment law attorney, though, before you try to organize the Nissan employees again.

Anonymous said...

12:26, you stay up too late worrying about silly things. The first amendment to the constitution provides every citizen rights the government can't infringe upon. The fact that the government acts as an employer doesn't create an exemption to the constitutional mandate. At least that what I learned the Supreme Court held in Pickering v. Board of Education in law school 15 years ago. But, perhaps the business law class you took at Hinds did a deeper dive on this issue and you can share your citations with us.

Besides, I never said the guy shouldn't have been fired. An employee of mine goes to the press, I'm firing him/her too. I'm just not the government.

Anonymous said...

Some of you claim he is not a whistle blower. He makes a statement "Water is incredibly dangerous in some parts of Jackson that use this material". He shows the material to an entity that is a check on the government. He proves that it was used. He understood the people running government in Jackson will not fix the problem.

A person makes a statement "Cigarettes cause cancer and are now chemically changed to make people highly addicted." Person gives factual evidence and chemistry behind his statement. He knows his company will not change its ways. he is given whistle blower status.

Why is the second covered and not the first?

Anonymous said...

This is a health crisis involving the tax paying citizens (the REAL BOSS). Personally, I don't want to wait around for a bureaucratic review board to review, and meet, and meet further and review again...before finally revealing water supply is tainted months after. Going to the media is the only, and fastest way to reveal what the citizens need to know quickly. The government should not be an overpowering authority determining when and how we are notified. Government officials are more concerned about social unrest, and how it makes the department look. If there is any risk at all to water supply, citizens deserve to know immediately, not months later after DEQ and EPA sift through. Yeager did the right thing, regardless of what your law class taught you.

Anonymous said...

What would this look like if this was a white administration and the man fired was black!!!

Anonymous said...

Why are people so worried about lead in the Jackson water supply? The citizens get more of their share of lead just walking down the street. Ask one of the victims which type of lead they are the most worried about. Jackson cops are a comedy parade.

Anonymous said...

Of course, he should be fired. If an employee of mine talked to the media, I would fire them immediately. He was not hired as a city spokesman. He is not an engineer. He's nothing but a regular employee trying to give out an expert opinion to a news outlet. He should have stayed in his lane.

First Amendment First Amendment First Amendment said...

8:15 - Stay up late at night and watch for the decision and you'll see just how uninformed and ill-educated you are in this regard. Working in the public sector does not afford one a right to violate company policy as regards speaking to the media. Nor does the amendment give protection to an employee who chooses to mouth off about policies and company procedures with which he disagrees. You plebeians who hang their collective hats on the first amendment are usually proven wrong when the results are in.

Anonymous said...


So, what you're saying is that the Government has the right to lie, defraud, and jeopardize lives so long as they're following policy?

Where the fuck do you people come from? Planet Nihilism?

Anonymous said...

1:40 - Where the fuck did YOU come from? That's not at all what was said. This has nothing to do with 'government' defrauding or jeopardizing. Pay attention.

The terminated employee did not enjoy whistleblower status. Read the definition or get somebody to read it to you.

The employer does not have a policy that violates employment law.

The employee violated the employer's policy as regards who can and cannot speak to the media on behalf of or in regard to the employer. The media is not an investigative body. (Regardless of what Kingfish tells you).

Being employed in the public sector does not afford to an employee the right to act in a manner which might embarrass or bring disfavor to the employer (jokes nothwithstanding).

Some of you wrongly believe that since the employer in this case is a branch of municipal government, its employee enjoys a first amendment right to speak ill of the workplace.

Anonymous said...

We can agree to disagree. The cut-to-the-chase reality is PEOPLE DONT TRUST GOVERNMENT...especially the group of ASS CLOWNS running Jackson. Thus, the reason people are voting less and less, and don't show for city propaganda listening tours. No one cares anymore!! Apathy is dangerous

Anonymous said...

Re: 4:16

How did employee embarrass or bring disfavor to public works office? He simply relayed factual information regarding a critical health crisis to the tax-paying citizens...information the city had neglected to provide. If this embarrassed the public works office, then it's their fault, not employees. Why would anyone want to suppress important health information? Don't care what your one of a million law degree told you, what's right is right. And, considering the topical aspect of this subject, a court of law will side with employee in this regard.

Anonymous said...

To the Roman individual above, and others. This is, indeed, a "first amendment" issue. The COTUS Bill of Rights establish no rights. They enumerate a few rights the Founders recognized as being important to notate. There is a freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech is the right to say things without fear of censorship or retaliation from the government. There are limitations, but limitations can not be contractual (if they would not be otherwise) if that contract is between a government entity and the individual. Limitations on freedom of speech are also usually recognized when speech impedes others' rights, such as their right to freedom of speech.

This situation appears to coincide with the very basis for freedom of speech. Without the protection, a government (city, state, federal) could squash any dissent of any wrong they are doing.

Yes, it put the City in a bad light. It did so because the City was attempting to keep everyone in the dark and any light on the subject would be bad for the City.

Anonymous said...

Guess this falls in line of thinking that city government doesn't have to provide basic property services, i.e. sewer, water, roads, etc. In any other business, if paid for services are not provided, it's a breach of contract. If I don't pay my property tax, government can lien my property. We are in fact living in a socialist system. Congrats

Anonymous said...

Who do you think came up with the plan to stop employees from talking to the media about their work? Why do you think they came up with this plan? People need to wake up.

Anonymous said...

Some of you wannabee attorneys might want to recognize the fact that while the first amendment discourages the government's general assault on freedom of speech, it's a different ball game when you get over into the employer-employee relationship and the right of even a government employer to enforce certain standards in the workplace.

If that were not the case, you could have a government employee rifling through employee files and releasing the contents to the media under a claim of first amendment right. Or, a government employee deciding he had protection to give the media a list of folks drawing government entitlements. Get it through your thick heads that even government (municipal in this case) employees are restricted by employer policies.

Anonymous said...

7:45 yes he violated his 'terms and conditions' BUT he also has the right to speak ( first ammendment- free country- not North Korea.)
he DOES have the right to speak, but that right has consequneces in this regard ( NO SH*T).
He more than likely knew what the situation would be before he went to media.
The way some of you (7:45)put it, you make it out like he has no right to speak at ALL and shall be punished accordingly with some communist gag order protocol.. He is a populist hero. Your arcane bullshit can't legislate that. The lawyers will have a field day trying to prove that exact point.

Get over it. The cat is out of the bag-- lead elbow pipes! well,-----that and more are the problems.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully, only at the Supreme Court Level are results dependent on 'what one THINKS the law ought to be' or 'what one THINKS is right'.

The jugheads on here blabbering on about lead pipes, what they THINK is right, whether you THINK the employer suffered or might have suffered employee maligning in a public arena and who was hoodwinking whom are off on a tangent and a rabbit trail that would not last forty seconds in a court of law.

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