Former CCA employee sues, says he was scapegoat

Former CCA employee sues over firing, says company made him the scapegoat for staffing fraud

Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- A former employee at Idaho's largest private prison who was fired after the state launched an investigation into allegations of contract fraud is suing Corrections Corporation of America, saying he has had to unfairly take the blame for the company's wrongdoing.

Shane Jepsen started working for CCA in 2000 as a correctional officer and worked his way up to chief of security, the third-ranking spot at the Idaho Correctional Center.

In a lawsuit filed in Boise's U.S. District Court this week, Jepsen says he began warning then-warden Tim Wengler and other CCA officials of staffing vacancies and inaccurate staffing reports back in 2010. He contends that CCA made him the scapegoat for the staffing fraud when it fired him earlier this year.

Wengler and the other CCA officials have denied having any knowledge of the staffing fraud before the end of 2012, when the company says its officials first heard a report of problems and launched an internal investigation.

In the lawsuit, Jepsen says in 2010 he emailed several CCA managers including Wengler and the assistant warden Tom Kessler, in 2010 to talk about problems with the staff rosters, and that he did it again in 2011, writing, "There are people coming to work that are not listed on the daily roster, people are here that are not listed on the roster, people are on the rosters that are not here."

Jepsen says he had no authority to fix the staffing problems and that his supervisors were fully aware of the issue. He contends CCA has publicly tried to place the blame on him to divert its own failure to comply with the $29 million state contract.

"In terminating Jepsen in April of 2013, CCA officials made clear that they had to protect CCA's reputation in Idaho so IDOC would continue to allow CCA to run (the prison) pursuant" to the state contract and despite the company's breach of the contract, Jepsen's attorney, Howard Belodoff, wrote in the lawsuit.

"... It was the high ranking CCA Officials who changed the format of the employee staff rosters, in 2010, in such a way that IDOC contract monitors would not be able to detect shift vacancies on the face of the reformatted roster, and thereby making it simpler for ICC to falsify employment rosters without detection."

Jepsen is asking for back pay, compensatory damages and other payments in excess of $150,000. CCA has not yet filed a response.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen has previously said that the company has taken action to fix the staffing problems. Staff and inmate security are a top concern, he said, and CCA remains committed to making taxpayers whole for any unverified hours.

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