Landfill garbage toss

Garbage is dumped into containers Tuesday morning at the Citrus County Central Landfill in Lecanto. A former landfill emmployee is suing the county on a whistleblower complaint.

A former Citrus County landfill worker is suing the county, claiming he was demoted and then fired after alerting his supervisors to numerous violations of the landfill’s permit.

Olen “Ray” Oates Jr. is suing under the state’s whistleblower law, designed to protect workers who disclose information about the workplace from retaliation.

The March 25 lawsuit states Oates is suing for loss of wages, past and future, loss of benefits and attorney’s fees.

County Attorney Denise Dymond Lyn had no comment about the lawsuit, but said: “The Citrus County landfill is in complete compliance with all state, federal and local laws.”

Oates began work with the county in March 2017 as a solid waste geologist, the lawsuit states.

After starting his work for the county, Oates said he became aware that Citrus had been in a consent order with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, or FDEP, since 2005 for exceeding state standards in the migration of groundwater and landfill gas contamination, the lawsuit states.

Oates said he complained to supervisors that the landfill was failing to accurately report data concerning the landfill’s leachate monitoring system. Oates claimed that leachate pumps were being turned on and off daily to avoid compliance reporting requirements.

He also complained about the lack of maintenance on leachate pumps, which often took several weeks to repair, the lawsuit states.

Oates said his complaints were related to the health and safety of the county.

He said his supervisors responded, “This is the way we always do it” when he complained.

He said the county relegated him to a half-time cashier position and then disciplined him for not securing a $100 cash box assigned to him.

Oates said he was dismissed on Jan. 16 this year, “ostensibly for cashier ‘cash box’ violations,” the lawsuit states.

“Oates contends that his termination was in retaliation for engaging in protected activities under Florida law,” the lawsuit states.”

He is seeking in excess of $30,000.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.