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In-Depth Interview: Oregon Whistleblower Vikki Mata Appeals Jury Verdict; Expert Don Soeken Comments

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Working at the Oregon Health Authority, Vikki Mata discovered inflated numbers that produced over $100 million in excess federal bonus payments diverted to cover a budget deficit, and was fired after reporting it through proper channels.Mata has lost 5 years fighting her termination, and lost a jury trial that appears to have been biased against her.  She is appealing to the 9th Circuit here in San Francisco, and needs financial support to continue the struggle.  If you are able, please donate here.

Dr. Don Soeken is a whistleblower himself, and as a social worker he has counseled many others for more than 30 years.  He operates the website Whistleblowing Today and is the author of Don’t Kill the Messenger, which includes the cases of Russ Tice at NSA and Linda Lewis at USDA and FEMA.

Mata describes her experience working on the rollout of Healthy Kids in Oregon, and her discovery that reports of new signups were inflated as much as 100%. The inflated numbers allowed Oregon to collect more than $100 million in bonuses, which were diverted to cover budget shortfalls.

She followed guidelines in raising the issues with supervisors, the Secretary of State’s office and the state Justice Dept, and was retaliated against.  A Native American, Mata brought an antique tomahawk to work to show to a colleague, and was accused of bringing a weapon to the workplace.

Dr. Soeken offers some history and context, and confirms that most whistleblower stories follow similar lines.

Mata tells us how the trial proceedings and jury instructions were unfair, and that Dr. Soeken was blocked from testifying.

Near the end, Dr. Soeken offers important advice to people who are thinking of blowing a whistle: be very careful, and get a lawyer before you act.