- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

DETROIT, Jan. 13 (UPI) — A 20-year veteran General Motors Corp. employee who discovered fuel line problems he believed were product defects is suing the world's largest automaker for demoting him.

Courtland T. Kelley claims he became a target for retaliation by top GM management after he threatened to report suspected defects to federal auto safety agency officials. Kelley, 40, was manager of the GM Global Delivery Survey team, an internal program that monitored vehicle safely.

He claims he was repeatedly ignored when he reported problems with safety fasteners and connectors such as like nuts and bolts that could allow fuel to leak during the two years he audited vehicle safety.

Kelley reported the problems to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in December.

"His primary objective (with the lawsuit) is to get defective vehicles off the road and protect public safety," Rose Goff, his attorney, told Monday's Detroit News.

Goff said Kelley was ignored by upper management and that's when he threatened to file a whistleblower report with NHTSA. The Global Delivery Survey program was dropped Jan. 2, 2002, and Kelley was given to a temporary assignment at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Mich.

Federal law, which was strengthened after the 2000 Firestone tire recall, requires auto manufacturers to report all problems and potential defects in a timely manner.

The findings of the internal safety audit remain sealed in a separate lawsuit filed in Georgia by the employee who designed the program.

GM had no comment on Kelley's lawsuit filed under the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act Thursday in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens, Mich. The 23-year-old state law is designed to protect employees who report illegal or unethical practices of their employer from firing, job discrimination or retaliation.

Time last month named whistleblowers at Enron Corp., WorldCom Inc., and the FBI the magazine's people of the year for going public with information about corporate corruption, fraudulent accounting and the FBI's mishandling of a terrorist investigation.




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