Circuit Judge Phillip D. Gaujot ruled that some of Mark Stewart’s claims met the whistleblower law’s definition and that his attempts around that were trying to fit the case to another standard.
Gaujot also ruled that Stewart’s suit did make an adequate wrongful termination claim and is allowing the case to continue on those grounds.
Sean Cook of Meyer Ford & Glasser, who represents Stewart, said that Gaujot dismissed Count 1 of the complaint, which was for violation of public policy terminating Stewart for reporting waste and wrongdoing in the WVU Division of Purchasing and Procurement.
Cook said Gaujot denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss on Count 2, which was violation of public policy for refusing to follow unlawful orders in the WVU Division of Purchasing and Procurement.
“We look forward to aggressively pursuing Mark's case to obtain the relief he is due, and to examining the potential misuse of public funds,” Cook said.
WVU filed its motion to dismiss in June, denying any wrongdoing and claimed that Stewart filed the lawsuit under the wrong law.
WVU argued that Stewart filed the suit a year after his termination when, under the whistleblower law, he only had 180 days.
Stewart’s initial complaint was filed under the whistleblower law, but, in his amended complaint the whistleblower claims were omitted.
The university argued that the whistleblower law is the only remedy in which public employees can sue for retaliation and wrongful discharge.
In his lawsuit, Stewart claims that prior to accepting employment at WVU, he had a long and esteemed career in purchasing and procurement in both the private and public sectors and he possessed knowledge of federal and state purchasing and procurement regulations.
Stewart claims when he started employment at WVU, he began observing unlawful and unethical activity within the Procurement, Contracting and Payment Services Department.
Even though he expressed his concerns and disapproval of the unlawful and unethical conduct, his concerns and complaints were disregarded and he was ostracized from duties within his employment and was often chastised and ridiculed in response to his reporting and expressing his well-founded objections to WVU and Department practices, according to the suit.
Stewart claims he was also denied promotional opportunities and employment benefits that he was entitled to or that were received by other employees who did not report waste and wrongdoing.
Stewart is seeking compensatory damages with pre- and post-judgment interest.
WVU is represented by Bryan R. Cokeley and Julie A. Moore of Steptoe & Johnson.
Monongalia Circuit Court case number: 16-C-13-2