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Whistleblower fired for exposing misuse of grant funds

A Pittsburg nonprofit organization is facing heavy criticism this week, after a former employee filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. The employee had been the leader of the development team at the organization. She accuses the organization of misusing restricted grant funds and for firing her when she complained about the misconduct. Firing an employee for exposing unlawful activity is a violation of both state and federal employment law. In fact, there are laws in place to specifically protect whistleblowers from retaliation, because the government believes there is value in encouraging employees to expose wrongdoing.

The allegations against the nonprofit group say that the employee tried to stop the misuse of funds when she discovered it, but was fired the day before she was set to present her findings to a larger group. If true, these facts outline a serious violation of the law. The conduct also indicates a breach of trust between the nonprofit and the grant organization.

The former employee is represented by Samuel Cordes of this firm. He told reporters this week that in addition to the organization's unlawful conduct in firing his client, they also clearly engaged in deceptive accounting practices. "Using restricted grant money for unrestricted purposes is not proper," Mr. Cordes said. "Changing accounting methods is also not proper, and depending on who relies on [the resulting reports] there might be a number of federal or state laws that might be implicated."

The employee pointed out the misuse of specific funds that were intended for a grocery store project.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Former Hill House worker files suit over firing," Rich Lord, April 11, 2012.

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