Ombudsman lawsuit to proceed, gets judge go ahead

Apr 11, 2012

A Leon County Circuit Judge denied motions by the state and two industry groups to dismiss a lawsuit filed by an ex-long term care ombudsman during a Wednesday hearing. As Sascha Cordner reports, the judge made that determination, despite arguments from the defendants’ lawyers that the basis for the former ombudsman’s lawsuit holds no merit.

Former state ombudsman Brian Lee says Circuit Judge James Shelfer’s decision is just one more step towards proving that the Florida Health Care and Florida Assisted Living Associations tried to interfere with Lee’s official ombudsman duties, with one group even trying to get him replaced.

“Also, that interference would lead to a misdemeanor. So, basically we’re going to see that this is going to be connected to the Governor’s office, and there’s criminal intent here, and we’re going to expose that.”

Lee claims the Department of Elder Affairs gave him the option of resigning or being fired, after Governor Rick Scott sent a letter to agency officials calling for Lee to step down. Lee also contends the department violated the state’s “whistleblower” law by forcing his resignation, just because he was a strong advocate for long-term care residents.  The groups could not comment because of the ongoing litigation.