A jail employee alleges he was transferred to a different department because he disclosed information to Kentucky State Police and Fiscal Court alleging Jailer Billy Roberts abused his authority.
Chris Blankenship, the jail’s food services director, filed a lawsuit against Fiscal Court, Franklin County Regional Jail and Roberts in Franklin Circuit Court Thursday, citing a violation of Kentucky’s whistleblower law.
In the complaint, Blankenship says he was involuntarily transferred without cause from his position of government services program director to food services director after he “in good faith reported, disclosed, divulged and otherwise brought attention” to Fiscal Court and KSP about information relating to “actual or suspected violations of law and actual or suspected mismanagement, waste, fraud or abuse of authority” by Roberts and other jail employees.
The complaint says Blankenship’s transfer is a violation of KRS 61.102(1), informally known as Kentucky’s whistleblower law, which prohibits employers from discriminating or threatening to take action against employees who disclose information to law enforcement agencies or any other “appropriate body or authority.”
The complaint also cites a violation of the jail’s employment code, which states a jail employee must be given a reason for being involuntarily transferred to a different position.
Richard Guarnieri of Frankfort's Johnson, True and Guarnieri law firm, who is representing Blankenship, said his client told KSP and Fiscal Court that Roberts allegedly gave special treatment to certain employees.
“I’m not part of the investigation, but my understanding is (Fiscal Court and KSP) are looking into his employment practices, the way he is running the jail from the standpoint of employment, who gets paid and how they’re getting paid,” Guarnieri told The State Journal Friday.
“A lot of it relates to the paying of employees, recording of their time, people being paid for work they weren’t performing, people being treated preferentially … (and) favoritism of certain employees who have relationships with Roberts.”
It’s unclear when the investigation occurred or if it’s ongoing. Lt. David Jude, KSP public affairs commander, said Friday evening he was unaware of the investigation.
Guarnieri said Blankenship received a memorandum April 9 notifying him of his transfer to food services director, the position he held prior to becoming government services program director. Before receiving the memo, Blankenship was government services program director for several years, Guarnieri said.
In the complaint, Blankenship is requesting unspecified damages and the reinstatement of his position.
Judge-Executive Ted Collins and County Attorney Rick Sparks both said they were made aware of the complaint Friday morning, but declined to comment on the suit or the complaints against Roberts.
Roberts could not be reached for comment.