Committing the Truth

After years of retaliation because she was a whistleblower, a leading Alzheimer's researcher can vouch for how poorly Arizona law protects university employees who report waste or fraud

Haener, the lobbyist for the state attorney general's office, still disagrees. Besides his other concerns, Haener points out that the federal government has an office to handle whistleblower complaints. Arizona has no such office.

"We've got to be careful about saying this mirrors the federal legislation exactly," Haener says. "It doesn't."

Haener says, however, that attorney general representatives will meet with Devine and others in coming months to discuss amending the legislation for next year's session.

Marguerite Kay says she has been blacklisted within the scientific community by UofA administrators. She says she hopes to have her name cleared so she can leave the university and again pursue her research of Alzheimer's disease.
Marguerite Kay says she has been blacklisted within the scientific community by UofA administrators. She says she hopes to have her name cleared so she can leave the university and again pursue her research of Alzheimer's disease.

"Can the Whistleblower Law be strengthened? 'What's the best way to do that?' is the question. We just don't feel that what's been presented is the best solution. But we would be willing to work towards the best solution," Haener says.

That process, Bernstein and Devine say, is already beginning. The two vow to ensure that "all the information is out there to everyone involved," Devine says, "so there is no more of this last-minute sabotage."

"While I can understand the opposition to the bill, it's an emotional reaction," Rogers says. "If everybody could just look at the reality of this, it becomes extremely clear that this legislation benefits everyone involved."


Okay, so if Marguerite Kay is so good and so innocent, why doesn't she just leave the University of Arizona?

"Oh, I'd love to get out of there," Kay says. "The problem is, they have trashed my name and my credibility. I can't leave until things are made right."

At this point, even though the rest of the world sees her as a hero, she wants to erase the UofA portrait of her as a lying, grave-robbing, sexually deviant car thief who exposes her underlings to terrible viruses that don't exist.

But, she has a new hearing in front of the university's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure. This time, she says, she's hoping the university follows its own rules "even if the rules that weren't followed still are slanted and can be manipulated against you."

"But I'm not expecting much," she says. "That's not how they operate."

Several of those scientists who wrote in defense of Kay begged President Likins to establish a review committee of outside scientists who are experts in the field in which Kay works. Those letters went unanswered.

If Marguerite Kay's case sounds too absurd to be common, it's not, Tom Devine says. It fact, it fits a fairly common mode of retaliation.

In his book, The Whistleblower's Survival Guide, Devine spelled out what whistleblowers can expect:

"Some employers will display real chutzpah in selecting charges, attempting to select and make stick the most outrageous or farfetched charges possible as a 'lesson' to other employees about management's power to control events."

But why would any manager spend so much time and money to destroy the career of somebody who reported waste, fraud or abuse?

"Because," Devine says, "it's been proven to be one of the best methods of diverting attention away from the waste, fraud or abuse that was originally reported."

Oh, yeah, the original charges.

Nothing came out of Kay's original 1992 claim that UofA was billing her twice for maintenance in her laboratory.

Those charges, if proven, could have been a criminal act of fraud.

But Kay could never prove her point because administrators simply told her she didn't have a right to see the detailed accounting records of her own grants.

Under the proposed laws, those are documents that whistleblowers such as Kay could have legal rights to subpoena to prove retaliation.

"Trust me, there are reasons people are fighting so hard to block reform," Kay says. "You'd have an awful thing happen. You'd have the public getting access to the truth."

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