Whistle-blower at state agency finds himself fired
|By Craig Jarvis, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
But now Vincoli might have whistled himself out of a job.
Vincoli is fighting to keep his position with the state
Vincoli, whose job focused on health care costs in the state prisons, was fired two months after the agency reclassified his position to make it exempt from the protections of the state personnel law. The move made it more difficult for him to appeal his dismissal. His attorney calls what happened a "sham" meant to cover up the department's real motive.
The agency disputes that and says the position Vincoli held was redefined. The job and its qualifications changed, so the person who held the position had to change, said
"There was and is no retaliation," Walker said.
And while Public Safety is the agency Vincoli is battling now, his original beef had nothing to do with his own department. Rather, it involved his concern with state money that flowed to privately run
"Why fire a guy this good?" Byrne said.
Prompting an audit
Vincoli's road to whistle-blower has been a contentious one.
Vincoli's battles began while he was the director of managed care at
He also says he told the hospital that it was being overpaid by the public health insurance plan for state employees and teachers.
Vincoli, who lives in the
The State Auditor's Office looked into his claims and, in 2011, issued an audit that found the health plan had overpaid the hospital
The hospital sued Vincoli in early 2011, accusing him of "unjustified, vindictive, malicious and gratuitous" actions. Several months later, it dropped the lawsuit.
The state auditor expanded that original probe into a broader review of issues involving the health plan and determined in 2011 the plan might have overpaid as much as
Saving the state money
The state's whistle-blower law was written to protect employees, but it didn't apply to tipsters who weren't state employees.
In 2012, reacting to Vincoli's role in the
By that time, Vincoli was working for the state, hired by the prison division in 2010 to work on managed care and similar issues after a state audit found
There, he helped implement two major cost-cutting measures: qualifying patient inmates for
"I would absolutely say Joe had a major role in cutting health care costs," Lancaster said.
But Vincoli wasn't done with
According to emails obtained from Public Safety, Vincoli didn't hear anything back and so he contacted the state
In 2012, the SBI had opened a preliminary inquiry into Vincoli's concerns about the hospital at the request of the
Wasting leadership's time
When Vincoli persisted that he had new information -- he said it was from emails obtained in the discovery process in his lawsuit with
Vincoli's response was to email the director of prisons, questioning whether the agency lawyer,
Boyle was less polite in his next email to Vincoli in August.
"While I am certain you understood that my email yesterday was not a suggestion or a discussion point, let me clarify. You are NOT to waste any further government time on this issue," Boyle wrote. "Every time you raise this topic, you force the leadership of DPS to waste time thinking about it and responding to you. Do not do it again."
Boyle made it clear that he didn't know if Vincoli's allegations of fraud were legitimate or not, but said Vincoli could pursue it on his own time. Boyle added that he hadn't worked at the law firm since 2010, and wasn't involved in the hospital lawsuit against Vincoli.
In September, Boyle was promoted to deputy secretary of the agency, and retained his role as general counsel. In October, Vincoli was notified that his job was being declared exempt from the state personnel act because it was now considered managerial. The effect of the change is that Vincoli was considered a manager who could be fired at will.
In December, Vincoli was dismissed.
He challenged the firing in his petition filed last month, arguing his job was not managerial in its duties. He is waiting for it to come before an administrative law judge. If the judge rules that Vincoli was exempt from the personnel act, his effort can be dismissed. If that happens, Vincoli could file a lawsuit in
Vincoli says he has applied for two dozen state jobs without luck. He believes he has been blackballed. Staff writer
Jarvis: 919-829-4576; Twitter: @CraigJ_NandO
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