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State Settles for $4.25 Mil in Whistleblower Lawsuit

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Union City, CAA whistleblower accused the state Department of Education and Delaine Eastin, the former state schools superintendant, of directing funds to agencies that were either fraudulent or nonexistent. Now, that whistleblower has been awarded $4.25 million in a settlement with the state Department of Education.

James Lindberg once worked as a compliance monitor for the state DOE, but accused the department of misappropriating millions in federal funds between the years of 1995 and 2000. The funds were meant for community groups that teach citizenship and English classes to immigrants.

When he had reported what he found to Eastin, who was also a councilwoman and a member of the state assembly, he says that she ignored his reports. He also claims that he was demoted after he reported what he had found. Also named in his lawsuit is Joan Polster, the former department manager.

The alleged retaliation against Lindberg led to so much stress on the job that he says he had two heart attacks. The lawsuit says that these heart attacks confined him to a wheelchair.

However, Lindberg's claims have been refuted by the DOE's spokeswoman Hilary McLean. She has said that from the perspective of the department, he was not retaliated against and he did not lose his job. She says that there was a department-wide reorganization that was going on that affected many of the employees of the department and not just him.

No parties have admitted any wrongdoing in the settlement. However, the settlement does bring an end to a legal battle that has lasted seven years and cost the DOE $1.2 million in attorney fees. Lindberg had initially been awarded a settlement of $4.5 million by a jury back in 2002, but the decision was appealed by the DOE. In the appeal, they were allowed to have a retrial. A second jury had increased the reward to $7.6 million in 2006. The department again appealed the decision.

McLean has said that it was important for the DOE to fight the lawsuit because this led to the settlement that is less than the 2002 jury award. The department does not feel that they were liable for any of the claims that Lindberg had made against them. McLean has also said that the DOE has a responsibility to defend itself against what they feel are meritless lawsuits for the sake of the taxpayers.

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