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Sandoval County employee files suit under whistleblower act

A former Sandoval County administration assistant is suing the county for civil rights damages and alleges a violation of the New Mexico Whistleblower Protection Act.

Celena Kwitkowski, who still appears on the staff website for the Sandoval County DWI Prevention Department, claims that last October she presented her supervisor with proof of time card fraud, misuse of county vehicles and numerous policy violations made by county employees.

According to the complaint filed last month in state District Court, Kwitkowski asked her supervisor about these issues several times, but each time she asked her supervisor she would be reminded that she was still on probation and could be let go for any reason.

Kwitkowski states in the complaint that she took her supervisor’s responses as threats of termination.

The complaint also said that Kwitkowski became aware of misuse of federal grants and public funds for DWI and other county programs. Kwitkowski said in the complaint that her supervisor did not take any action to stop or remedy the illegal conduct that was occurring.

The complaint states that shortly after these reports were made, Kwitkowski was terminated – just a few weeks before her probationary period was about to end.

Sandoval County spokesman Sidney Hill had no comment on the matter.

According to the state legislative website, the New Mexico Whistleblower Protection Act states in Section 3 occasions when retaliatory action is forbidden:

A public employer shall not take any regulatory action against a public employee because the public employee;

⋄  Communicates to the public employer or a third party information about an action or a failure to act that the public employee believes in good faith constitutes an unlawful or improper act;

⋄  Provides information to, or testifies before, a public body as part of an investigation, hearing or inquiry into an unlawful or improper act; or

⋄  Objects to or refuses to participate in an activity, policy or practice that constitutes an unlawful or improper.