Below is an op-ed by Rebekah Jones, scientist, COVID-19 whistleblower, and the presumptive Democratic nominee for Congress in Florida’s First Congressional District, currently leading GOP-incumbent Matt Gaetz in the polls by six points. For questions, contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday marks the two-year anniversary of when all this started.
On May 15, 2020, I told my supervisor at the Florida Department of Health that I was going to file a whistleblower complaint. He discouraged me from doing it, suggested I "think about your family," and told me to take a week to think about it.
They didn’t give me a week. They didn’t even give me a day. They called me on my first day off in five months to tell me I could either resign or I would be fired. They said I had until Thursday at 5:00 PM to decide. To get the more-than one month’s salary I had earned in overtime, I would have to waive my right to sue for anything that happened while I was there.
The next day, Ron DeSantis named me as the whistleblower, defamed me, attacked me personally, and tried to scare me from every coming forward. I had done no interviews, made no official statements in any capacity, and was hiding from the press in a hotel room not far from where I live now in Navarre. I sought help from professors of mine, who put me in touch with an amazing legal team. They asked me: what do you want out of all of this?
I said I wanted my job back and an apology.
They all laughed. I thought it was a reasonable request.
They may give you your job back, they’ll even give you money, but you will never get an apology, they said. They warned me it would take years to go through the process of filing the complaint, getting a determination, filing the civil suit, and eventually getting a settlement, they agreed, for some comfortable amount of money. Two years, maybe.
It’s been two years.
Whistleblower suits, per Florida law, must be resolved within 90 days. You can’t move the suit to civil charges until you get that determination – you must “exhaust all procedural remedies.” When we discussed a timeline, we assumed the state would follow the same process and procedures they always do, and in a few months we’d have a determination and could file in civil court.
It’s been two years. Two years with no determinations. Two years only sporadically getting feedback. It’s been nearly one year since I was granted whistleblower status – which of course came six months too late for me and my family. The firing, the smear campaign… the armed raid on our home without a warrant…. Two years.
We received a draft determination a few months ago. It was a significant breakthrough. We could tell things were going well for us. Finally, we thought, we can move on to the next step once the final determination is issued. The best possible outcome for us, in our minds, was a “no determination.” Meaning the state would throw up its arms and say, “we can’t say whether or not any of this did or did not happen.” The most likely outcome would be that the state would investigate itself and find it did nothing wrong. But any determination would let us file our lawsuit and move on to the next step.
After all, it’s been TWO YEARS.
We were optimistic – the investigator who has had our case since the beginning was the senior investigator at the DOH Inspector General’s Office. He had been working for FCHR and IG for ten years. He asked the right questions, circled around the right answers, and let DOH hang themselves in their many and shockingly varied statements. We were expecting the final version soon, and the evidence indicated a favorable ruling.
This past Friday we received notice that he’s no longer at DOH. A new investigator has been assigned. We have to start over. And it’s been two years.
We expected this to take a few years, but starting over two years in? DeSantis and his cronies are trying to make certain that nothing happens with our case before the election. It would damn his chances of being elected for janitor at the capitol, much less re-elected to his current office, or God forbid, any higher office.
They’ll find a way to throw out everything the original investigator worked on and make a DeSantis approved determination against us, I’m sure.
I’m running for Congress to stop the kinds of corrupt, tyrannical government-sanctioned revenge DeSantis has become synonymous with during these last two years.
What he did to me, especially after the raid on my home, has been called “the first shot of an ascendent dictator testing the limits of his power” by historians who study Mussolini, Goebbels, Hitler.
We must give the power back to people and trust that they will use it responsibility, not continue to entertain candidates who only self-promote, serve as party martyrs with the expectation they’ll be handed party positions when they lose, or make a profit off a campaign that you shouldn’t receive a cent from to begin with.
All I ever wanted was to help people. It’s why I went into emergency response.
My life has come to symbolize something much bigger than that, and I will not stop until our government stops letting people like Ron DeSantis use the full weight of the power of his office to exact violent revenge on any person who speaks against him.
Matt Gaetz is an obstacle in our way to achieving that, and we need to seize the opportunity to widen our lead and secure victory this November.
We’re beating him because I’m the polar opposite of him in every conceivable way. Everyone we meet with sees that. But we need to reach more people — we need tv ads, radio ads, more events, mailings. Those things cost money.
We’re going to win this fight. But we truly need your help.
You’ve been by my side for two years. I would not be here without you. You kept my family fed in a time where I was stuck in a cycle of payday loans and unsure how I would pay my rent.
Two years is a long time. But I owe every minute of my success to you. You’ve been the true power behind my voice.
Any help to my family here or to our campaign helps us widen our lead over Gaetz so that we can stop him and those like him from grabbing and abusing their power.
I need your help on this path. My community and our country need your help.
You can support the campaign at www.RebekahJonesCampaign.com
You can email us at email@example.com
You can text us at 850-980-0735.
However long it takes, I’ll keep fighting. I hope you’ll be here to fight beside me.
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