• Whistleblower claims retaliation in lawsuit against county

    By: Joe Bruno

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Patient records and critical medical documents were hidden and piled up in an office at the Mecklenburg County Health Department for seven years and the whistleblower behind it is suing the county, saying she was fired for speaking out.

    The wrongful termination lawsuit comes in the wake of serious scandals Eyewitness News covered in 2017, including the Health Department's failure to notify 185 women about abnormal Pap smear results.

    The new suit that Channel 9 uncovered Wednesday shows problems may have started years before that incident.

    Natalie Nicholson said she experienced all of that while working for the Mecklenburg County Health Department, according to court documents filed last week.

    Nicholson claims in 2013 that she reported her coworker wasn't submitting critically important data to state agencies. The lawsuit says that resulted in the county being forced to return $250,000 to a state-governing body and retaliation.

    Nicholson said she received negative annual reviews, reassignment, more work and isolation from staff.

    She also said she was forced to work in an offsite location with a kitchen table as a desk, with no printer and no office supplies.

    “I thought that there could be some lawsuits,” County Commissioner Pat Cotham, D-At large, said.

    She expected fallout after she said the county failed to notify the women about abnormal Pap smear results.

    Nicholson left her job after the scandal, but the controversy isn't mentioned in the lawsuit.

    Cotham expects that commissioners will be briefed on the filing and said the county is actively working to make changes to the Health Department.

    “Rome wasn't built in a day,” Cotham said. “It is going to take a lot of people working together collaboratively with a lot of transparency.”

    The county manager is on vacation this week and couldn't be reached, but officials in her office said they don't comment on pending litigation.

    Nicholson is asking for more than $25,000 and a jury trial, according to documents.

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