TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A state appeals court has ruled that a former independent auditor general for the city of Miami can pursue a lawsuit alleging he lost his job because of reporting improper financial activity.
Victor Igwe filed the lawsuit under the state’s whistleblower act, alleging he suffered retaliation for reporting the financial misconduct between 2009 and 2011.
Igwe reported issues such as improper transfers of fuel-tax money and stormwater-utility revenues into the city’s general fund, according to Thursday’s ruling by a panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal. Along with reporting the issues to the city, Igwe also testified under subpoena in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.
The city subsequently declined to renew Igwe’s contract, leading to his lawsuit.
A Miami-Dade County circuit judge issued a summary-judgment ruling in favor of the city, finding that the whistleblower act didn’t apply to people who reported misconduct as part of their job descriptions. But in a 13-page decision, the appeals court overturned that ruling and sent the case back to the circuit court.
“In summary, the city’s interpretation of the statute runs contrary to the plain meaning of the language contained in the act and the express intent of the Legislature to protect ‘any person’ who discloses such misconduct,” said the decision, written by appeals-court Judge Leslie Rothenberg.