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The California Supreme Court Monday stamped out any doubts about whether a public employee must exhaust administrative remedies before filing a whistleblower suit. The unanimous decision in Campbell v. Regents, 05 C.D.O.S. 2016, upholds trial and appellate court rulings that Janet Campbell — a former engineer for the University of California at San Francisco — was required to file an administrative complaint before litigating a whistleblower claim. “Obviously, we think they got it right,” said William Carroll, a partner with Morgenstein & Jubelirer who represented the UC Regents. “It strengthens the viability of the internal grievance procedures, and it underscores the importance of using those methods.” But, Carroll added, it’s unclear whether the ruling creates precedent for other state governmental bodies since the court focused on the Regents’ unusual structure as a constitutionally created public trust. The opinion ends an eight-year saga that began in 1997 when Campbell said she was demoted after FBI agents contacted her supervisors. The agents were investigating Campbell’s allegations that her superiors had rigged the competitive bidding process for construction contracts. The Regents terminated Campbell’s employment two years later, claiming they were downsizing. Campbell responded by filing an internal complaint, alleging that her supervisors fired her in retaliation for whistleblowing. When a UCSF staffer responsible for handling such complaints told Campbell she had to take her claim to a different administrative board, Campbell abandoned the grievance process and sued in San Francisco Superior Court. Campbell’s attorneys, Leo Donahue, from Gold River, and Stephan Mandell, from Granite Bay, did not return calls seeking comment by press time.

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