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Tate & Renner, attorneys at law

505 N. Wooster Ave.
P.O. Box 8
Dover, Ohio 44622-0008
(330) 364-9900
FAX: (330) 364-9901
Email: rrenner@igc.org
Alfred L. Tate (1942-1995)
Richard R. Renner

www.taterenner.com

press release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WTI WHISTLEBLOWER WINS REINSTATEMENT

A federal judge has ordered that VonRoll America must reinstate environmental whistleblower Donna Trueblood to her former job at the WTI hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.

Administrate Law Judge Richard A. Morgan, of the U.S. Department of Labor, found that VonRoll America (VRA), the company that runs WTI, had an "informal policy under which employees are to first report environmental compliance issues to management or their supervisors". Judge Morgan held that this policy is "unlawful." Judge Morgan's Decision also found that, "VRA employees who spoke out were the ones to incur VRA's wrath," and "The consensus in the plant is that you don't say anything or something will happen."

Donna Trueblood had worked on the drum crew at the incinerator from 1999 to October 25, 2002. Her duties included checking incoming waste, and noting discrepancies on Hazardous Waste Manifests -- the documents required for "cradle-to-grave" tracking of hazardous wastes.

In February, 2002, Trueblood reported environmental violations at WTI to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA). Trueblood reported that VRA used an open-air parking lot owned by Heritage to store hazardous wastes. She also complained that VRA had accepted bromoform and 100% benzene, wastes it could not lawfully incinerate. She also gave a telephone statement to OEPA and US EPA investigators. Two weeks later, on March 11, 2002, the WTI Plant Manager, Alfred Sigg, called Trueblood into his office. He questioned her about her reports to outside agencies.

Stressed by the hostile confrontation, Trueblood took a medical leave of absence. Her interview for a new job was canceled by Heritage Environmental Services. When she returned to work, supervisors subjected her to close scrutiny. Management imposed a series of disciplinary actions against her. On October 25, 2002, in the middle of an 11-day hearing on her case, management fired her claiming her sick leave was four (4) hours over the 56-hour limit.

Judge Morgan's 60-page decision reviewed how VRA, "brick-by-brick, built a record upon which to eventually base [Trueblood's] unlawful termination." Along the way, VRA's management "attempted to cover it up . . . by straying from the truth."

Judge Morgan determined that Trueblood was entitled to $50,000.00 in compensatory damages and $125,000.00 in exemplary damages.

Alonzo Spencer is a long-time opponent of the WTI incinerator and a member of Save Our County. Spencer said, "This decision is a vindication of all the efforts that we have put forth over these many years. The decision gives us incentive to continue our efforts against this unsafe, illegal and unwanted facility."

Donna Trueblood's attorney, Richard Renner, said, "Martin Sheen's sit-in did not stop this incinerator, but one true blooded factory worker has chipped its wall of secrecy. Any worker in any factory has a right to blow the whistle on illegal pollution. WTI management has shown that they cannot be trusted to tell the truth. By retaliating against a worker for what she said to the government, they revealed a culture of cover-up." The decision is available on the attorney's web page, www.taterenner.com.

Dover, OH, April 4, 2003—

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Last updated 2003-04-04
Copyright 2003 Tate & Renner