New Mexico Considers Expanding Whistleblower Program to Local & School Governments

Expanding whistleblower protections and rewards programs are hot topics throughout the country these days. While the NJ Supreme Court is contemplating better defining what constitutes “whistleblower status,” New Mexico politicians are reviewing potential legislation that would reward people who expose local lawmakers and school officials.

If this bill becomes a law in NM, a world of opportunity would open for regular folk, John Q. Public and his neighbors, for example, to expose government corruption and attempts to defraud taxpayers. Why? Current Qui Tam laws focus on companies and people who attempt to bilk state and federal governments. “Mr. Public” is not generally involved at a level that permits him to have information on high-level schemes against the government. On the other hand, community residents have a much higher chance of being involved with school boards and local governing bodies.

In New Mexico, the issue is on the table thanks to a man named Tommy Rodella. The former sheriff is in jail for assaulting a driver during a traffic stop. Rodella wasn’t on the clock at the time; he was wearing his own clothing and driving his own personal car when he made the traffic stop.

It was during that investigation, however, the FBI got involved. Local police uncovered the fact that Rodella was allegedly on the take. Feds says they may charge him with extortion for turning a blind eye to traffic violations if and when the driver made a donation to a certain scholarship fund kept in an account that Rodella managed.

Authorities learned of Rodella’s alleged nefarious activities because one of his own deputies blew the whistle. That deputy was fired. If the pending legislation was law, that man would have received a financial award for speaking up.

New Mexico Sen. William Payne is a strong proponent of the proposed law. “We will reward anyone who has knowledge of fraudulent activity if we can prove it in court and make a recovery of funds. (It will make) it worth their while to speak up.”

If you have knowledge of fraudulent activity against the government, speak with a whistleblower lawyer who will protect your rights and work tirelessly to get you compensated for your information. Contact Begelman & Orlow for a consultation today.

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