Ohio (AP) -- The U.S. government has stepped in on behalf of
an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency investigator trying to
regain his job in a chemical contamination case involving two
central Ohio schools.
The Department of Labor's decision on Wednesday
was necessary if Paul Jayko wants to be able to enforce an
administrative law judge order that he be reinstated as site
coordinator at River Valley schools near Marion. The agency
said it agrees that the state broke seven whistleblower
statutes by reassigning him.
``The Ohio EPA should be getting his desk ready so he's
back on the job in Marion on Monday,'' E. Dennis Muchnicki,
Jayko's lawyer, told The Blade for a story Friday.
OEPA spokeswoman Carol Hester said Friday that the agency
is reviewing the decision and had not decided on its next
Jayko has argued he was removed because of questions he
raised about the thoroughness of the investigation. He filed
for protection under a federal whistleblower law, which
protects government employees from retaliation when they speak
out about possible violations of environmental laws.
The decision is part of a lawsuit the OEPA filed against
the federal government. The agency has claimed it is immune
from Jayko's complaints that it had discriminated against him.
The agency argued that individuals generally are prohibited
from suing states. In a ruling in November, U.S. District
Judge Edmund Sargus agreed but said the federal government can
take over the case for Jayko.
The lawsuit was filed after an administrative law judge
ruled Oct. 2 that Jayko was illegally removed from the job in
1998. That judge, Thomas Phalen of Cincinnati, also ordered
that Jayko be paid $138,000 in damages and lost wages.
Jayko has accused the OEPA of violating whistleblower laws
by removing him as the coordinator at the schools, built on
the site of a former military depot where chemical waste was
dumped for years. State officials began their investigation in
Marion after parents told Jayko about an unusually high number
of leukemia cases among graduates of the high school.
The state has denied any wrongdoing.
Jayko continues to work as a site coordinator in the
Bowling Green district office.
The federal government's action ``has renewed my faith that
maybe the government will do the right thing on behalf of
River Valley and Paul Jayko,'' said Mike Griffith, a geologist
and member of an activist group called Concerned River Valley