Georgia ethics commission lawyers short on ethics; whistleblower collects $280,000

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A former Georgia state employee who was fired in retaliation for a whistleblower lawsuit has been awarded $280,000 in an out-of-court settlement. Jennifer Ward was fired after reporting that two state ethics commission lawyers, Thomas Plank and Yasha Heidari, were handling private cases while on the state payroll, meeting with clients and attending court hearings. Ward also accused the pair of using state computers to research cases and abusing sick leave days.

Ward reported the matter shortly before Plank was named acting executive secretary of the commission in October 2009. She was fired one month later. Heidari left the commission in April to work for the law firm Heidari & Plank, while Plank quit in August to join the firm after the state’s inspector general determined that the lawyers were conducting private business on taxpayer’s money.

After the report of the state’s investigation was released, Heidari said the report was “pathetic” and that it was “50 pages of fluff.” Plank did not respond to requests for comments.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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