Boca Raton city officials disclosed that they will pay $322,500 to a former utility department employee who sued the city in 2008. The Palm Beach Post reports that the settlement amount was disclosed six days after Boca Raton city commissions approved the settlement.
The whistleblower had been a department employee for 23 years. In her lawsuit, she alleged that she was fired for reporting drinking-water safety violations. She alleged that the city failed to take proper measures to ensure that the drinking water did not mix with the reclaimed water system. Additionally, she alleged that water pressure was below state standards in certain parts of the city.
According to The Palm Beach Post, the settlement was reached on the eve of the trial. City officials did not comment on the settlement, and a state watchdog group said that this was because it would reveal weaknesses in agencies responsible for safe drinking water. The city denied any wrongdoing or liability in the settlement. This is not the first time Boca has allegations of health and safety violations. Last year, the city reached a settlement with health officials over certain violations without admitting wrongdoing.
The whistleblower’s attorney told The Palm Beach Post that the city repeatedly downplayed the whistleblower’s concerns; she had gone to state regulators after being ignored by city officials. “The fact is the issues she raised were very important to protect the public and its drinking water,” he stated. He also said that employees should be able to speak up about their concerns without being afraid of retaliatory action. In commenting on the settlement, he said that “It’s a real victory for public employees and the rights of the public to have safe drinking water,”