EEOC Okays Whistle-Blowing Campus Police Chief To Sue Institution
& State Agency
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 19, 2003
ELDRIDGE, CALIFORNIA--A former campus police chief who blew the whistle on troubles with investigations of resident abuses, neglect and questionable deaths at Sonoma Developmental Center, has been given the green light by a federal agency to file a civil rights lawsuit against the institution and the state.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined on September 4 that officials at SDC and the California Department of Developmental Services retaliated against former SDC Police Chief Edward Contreras in violation of his civil rights, after he had won an earlier civil rights case against them. In that case, Contreras was awarded $412,000.
When Contreras retired last October he claimed that he was subjected to ongoing harassment and intimidation by his employers following the previous suit.
Sonoma Developmental Center, located north of San Francisco, houses over 800 people with developmental disabilities. It has been the focus of numerous state investigations surrounding questionable deaths and injuries, along with physical and sexual abuse of residents. State regulators were in charge of investigating such incidents, until an August 2001 law called for "deaths and serious injuries of unknown origin" at institutions to be reported to local law enforcement.
For more than four years Contreras complained to his superiors that investigations had been performed inadequately if at all. He also claimed that SDC administrators actively interfered with investigations to cover up mistakes made by facility staff.
When Contreras' concerns were ignored by SDC and DDS officials, he took the complaints to lawmakers. Contreras later said his employers made his workplace intolerable, forcing him out.
"They (DDS and SDC authorities) have made it so unbearable, I have to get out of there," he said at the time.
EEOC's ruling is "the latest documentation that state bureaucrats would rather harass whistleblowers than reform their corrupt system" wrote Sonoma Index-Tribune Editor Bill Lynch on Tuesday.
Lynch's reporting has been critical of SDC's handling of those investigations, including an award-winning series entitled "SDC-Investigation or Cover-up" in the summer of 2000.
"EEOC: State violated SDC chief's civil rights" (Sonoma Index-Tribune)
"Editorial - Corruption in state bureau costs us all" (Sonoma Index-Tribune)
"Sonoma Developmental Center -- Investigations or Cover-ups?" (Inclusion Daily Express)