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Ombudsman lawsuit to proceed, gets judge go ahead

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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.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.