Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Help Me Howard: Poll Worker
You are hired to do a job. You take great pride in your work and when you see another employee breaking the rules, you notify your boss. But instead of a thanks you get punished. Is that legal? It's why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
When Yvonne thinks of Florida's polls, she's reminded of the greatness of America.
Yvonne Goodwin: "I like working inside the polls because it's a variety of different people that you come in contact with and I just love working with people."
Yvonne has been a poll worker in Miami-Dade County since 2001 and in the August primary election in 2012, she noticed two other poll workers not following the strict federal law they take an oath to follow.
Yvonne Goodwin: "He is not supposed to help the voters when their in the privacy booth."
When people were voting, Yvonne says one poll worker was helping people fill out their ballots. The other worker was taking the ballots from the voters instead of telling them to drop them into the machine.
Yvonne Goodwin: "He's not supposed to touch them. When I looked, he had a hand full of slips."
Yvonne did what she was trained to do. She wrote a letter to the Miami-Dade elections supervisor. An assistant called her, and said the two workers would be taken care of.
Yvonne Goodwin: "She will put them both on standby."
Standby means they are only used on election day in an emergency.
Yvonne Goodwin: "She thanked me for knowing the policies and procedures well."
Then as the November election neared, Yvonne did not get notified to work. When she called, she was told she had been put on standby. She said she told them that's a mistake. She wanted to work. She says they ignored her.
Yvonne Goodwin: "Every time I called I could never get through."
Then November the 6th, election day rolled around and Yvonne went to the polls where she used to work to cast her ballot.
Yvonne Goodwin: "Lord and behold, when I got to the precinct, the two guys were working. Yes, both of them were working."
The two men she says she had turned in for breaking the rules were working. She was not.
Yvonne Goodwin: "It hurt because the fact that I was trying to do the right thing, and I felt I was doing the right thing."
Yvonne went from heartbroken to fuming believing she was being punished.
Yvonne Goodwin: "Am I covered under the Whistleblower Act?"
Well Howard, can you legally be punished for reporting a possible violation by a co-worker?
Howard Finkelstein: "No. Yvonne is entitled to what is called Whistleblower Protection, which every employee in America gets. Under the different laws, government and private employees are covered if they file a complaint about a incident that could present substantial danger to the publics well being. Voting issuing certainly qualify under that law."
We contacted the Miami-Dade Elections Office. We were told this was is no way was a retaliatory decision against her. Yvonne didn't work election day because their records showed she had requested to be put on standby.
Yvonne says that is not true. When we asked the elections office why the two workers Yvonne turned in were allowed to work, we were told the elections office had no other complaints about those workers in their file. They said they were diligent workers like Yvonne.
Howard Finkelstein: "Yvonne could file a lawsuit against the elections department and maybe collect, but Yvonne isn't doing this for the money. She wants to work the elections and it would be smart for someone at Miami-Dade County to let her know she is wanted and will be working the next election."
We asked the elections office if Yvonne would be allowed to work the polls at the next election, we were told she is in good standing and will be called to work which is all she ever wanted.
Yvonne Goodwin: "To work in my same precinct, upon my same title. That's what I want for myself."
Yvonne and the elections office will just disagree on that, but at least Yvonne gets to work and wants to work the next election.
Now what kind of acts would be covered under the Whistleblower Act. Reporting Medicare fraud at a company, tax return fraud. In other words, almost any illegal activity.
Selected a problem you have elected to throw out?
Poll a few people. They may vote to call us, cause we don't blow smoke. We just want to leave you whistling a happy tune. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser 7News.
Contact Help Me Howard:
Email: email@example.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org