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For Immediate Release: Oct 26, 1999
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

DEM DIRECTOR ORDERED TO PAY $10,000

U.S. Department of Labor Says Reitsma Harassed Whistleblower


Washington, DC..The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a finding that Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Jan Reitsma was guilty of harassment. DOL has ordered a $10,000 payment for his public statement on August 17 attacking the ruling in favor of department employee Beverly Migliore's whistleblower complaint. Beyond the fine, Reitsma was ordered to retract his statement and post a copy of the order at the DEM.

Following a two month investigation, federal authorities concluded that Reitsma's official statement, which charged that the Migliore verdict was based upon "fabrication and distortion of fact," went well beyond "mere disagreement" and was designed to send a message "that an employee could not be seen with [Migliore] and that employees should keep their mouths shut." The Labor Department concluded that Reitsma meant to retaliate against Migliore because she had filed a whistleblower complaint under federal environmental laws.

"Jan Reitsma has decided to blow his opportunity as a new director to correct the problems at DEM and move forward," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization has helped bring Migliore's case. "Governor Almond has persisted in picking DEM directors who want to put a lid on employees rather than address the environmental problems they uncover."

In August, Migliore won an $843,000 judgment against the DEM for harassment in connection with her disclosures of lack of environmental enforcement. Her case was based on activity which took place before Reitsma became director of DEM. Nevertheless, Reitsma, who became director while the decision was pending, bitterly attacked the ruling and ordered that an appeal be filed.

"We have asked the DEM and the Attorney General, who is bringing the appeal, to quit wasting scarce tax dollars fighting this case and start enforcing the law against polluters," added Ruch whose organization also attacked the $50,000 retainer given to a private lawyer (and former associate of the Governor's son) to co-counsel the case.

Migliore has also filed a civil defamation lawsuit against Reitsma that is still pending.