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Former Sex Offender Registry Board chair, according to SJC, may file a whistleblower complaint 7 years after being fired by former Gov. Patrick

Former Sex Offender Registry Board chair, according to SJC, may file a whistleblower complaint 7 years after being fired by former Gov. Patrick

The state's highest court ruled Tuesday that the former chair of the Sex Offender Registry Board may file a whistleblower complaint seven years after former Gov. Deval Patrick fired her after she challenged the board'' classification of Patrick' s brother-in-law, according to the ruling.

Saundra R. Edwards is protected by the states whistleblower law and may sue for dismissal because she challenged an illegal activity, policy, or practice and was punished for it. In its unanimous decision, the Supreme Judicial Court held that she is not a whistle-blowing victim and that if she was dismissed, she may do so.

We conclude that the whistleblower act is applicable in these circumstances, Justice Frank M. Gaziano wrote for the unanimous court. Edwards has demonstrated sufficient disputes of material fact to survive the Commonwealths motion for summary judgment.

The court ruled that the arguments made by Attorney General Maura Healeys office to end the litigation by Edwards she lost a separate SJC case in 2017 were absurd in that they claimed that Patrick was not her boss.

We believe that the Governor was acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth when he brought about the departure of a plaintiff from SORB, Gaziano wrote. Since Edwards was a state employee, it would be nonsensical to regard the single person able to hire and fire [Edwards as acting independently of the Commonwealth. On this basis, the Commonwealth would lose basic control over its own workers, a tragic end to the process.

Patrick appointed Edwards to the board in 2007. The board reviews and classifies sex offenders based on their likelihood to reoffend and shares those findings with the public online and with law enforcement.

According to the SJC, Bernard Sigh did not have to register for life with the board when she was hired. An examiner found that Patricks brother-in-law s 1993 spousal rape conviction under California law was not the same as a felony conviction in Massachusetts, and that he did so without having to apply for re-election with it. (The SORB handling of the Sigh case was an issue during the 2006 election won by Patrick.)

Edwards looked into the issue internally and interviewed the examiner who made the Sigh decision. The examiner left the SORB, sued the state, and reached a settlement in 2014.

Edwards was a failure to follow through with her leadership duties at the board, according to Patrick, who had never met Edward before naming her to the Board. According to the court, he further stated that she attempted to influence inappropriately, an hearing officer, and thats a matter of record. According to the SJC, my brother-in-law was in the hearing at the time, according to it.

According to court records, Patrick, who earlier won the 2017 case when the SJC dismissed a defamation suit Edwards brought against him, was dropped as ostensibly remanded.

The penalties against the state for violating the whistleblower act may include triple lost wages, payment of lawyers' fees, or reinstatement to the previous job. The SJC decision sent the case back to Superior Court for further action.

John R. Ellement is available at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.

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