Saturday, August 24, 2002

Whistleblower's lawsuit reinstated

Judge: Professor worked for cabinet

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT - The Court of Appeals Friday reinstated a lawsuit by a University of Louisville professor who claimed the Cabinet for Families and Children tried to muzzle a study he did.

        Besides his teaching duties, Scott Cummings was director of the Center for Policy Evaluation and Research at the Urban Studies Institute at U of L. Mr. Cummings received a grant from the cabinet to study welfare reform's effects.

        “The results of the commissioned study were disturbing,” Judge David Barber wrote in the unanimous ruling of the court. The study found that welfare reform had a “disproportionately negative effect” on black and Appalachian families.

        When Mr. Cummings told the cabinet he intended to present his study to a Legislative Research Commission committee, he claims the cabinet told U of L to remove him and prevent him from releasing the report.

        Mr. Cummings sued the cabinet, Secretary Viola Miller and four others who supervised or oversaw his work. He claimed he was a “whistleblower” under the terms of the state law that provides some protections to employees who report wrongdoing.

        Mr. Cummings' suit was dismissed because the trial judge said he was not employed by the cabinet. And, the judge added, the cabinet and its personnel were exempt because they enjoyed “sovereign immunity.”

        Mr. Barber said it was clear the cabinet directed Mr. Cummings' work, even if the contract was between the cabinet and university.


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- Whistleblower's lawsuit reinstated