Local News

Whistleblower Suit Filed Against DMV Chief

Posted July 17, 2007 7:08 p.m. EDT

— A longtime inspector with the state Division of Motor Vehicles filed suit Tuesday against the division, claiming he was fired for questioning the improper approval of a title for a friend of DMV Commissioner George Tatum.

Joey Gardner also names the state Department of Transportation, Tatum and other DMV officials in the suit. A hearing is scheduled on the matter for Wednesday morning.

Gardner alleges he has been harassed by DMV officials in recent weeks after it came to light that a friend of Tatum's obtained a title three years ago to a replica 1937 Ford pickup that states the vehicle is a vintage truck. Gardner wrote a memo to his superiors that he was concerned Tatum might be trying to help out a friend by getting the truck listed as authentic, which would amount to fraud.

"Then, all of a sudden, when he reports honestly things connected to his job, he's immediately suspended from duty and subject to retaliatory evaluations," said Michael Byrne, Gardner's attorney.

Both Tatum and the owner of the truck have denied any wrongdoing or a secret deal. They both declined to comment on the suit.

Byrne filed the suit under the state Whistleblower Act, saying that while Gardner hasn't lost his job, his gun has been confiscated and he has been forced to undergo unnecessary psychological exams.

"It sends a bad signal to all state employees that, if you do your job and you happen to run afoul of a political issue, that your superiors could use a policy that's designed to help people in mental health emergencies to cast a stigma of mental unfitness on you," Byrne said.