Employees Lose Job Over Ethical Decision; May Have Overstepped Federal Law

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Former North Platte Housing Authority employees say they lost their jobs after reporting a potential applicant with an active warrant for child sex assault, but turns out federal law may even prohibit a director level position from calling police in this situation.

Former Housing Authority employees Christopher Holley and Laurie Demilt say they were fired on Tuesday.

"In the interest of protecting the children in our community Laurie and I acted because the Housing Authority Director would not," said Holley.

Holley is referring to a background check ran about two weeks ago on a potential tenant.

He says it turned out the applicant had an active warrant for sex assault on a child.

"Actually, I was worried because 75 percent of our tenants are a single family parent with children and I have children myself," said Demilt.

So Demilt approached her boss, Executive Director JD Bennett about the background check.

"I was asked to shred it and this was not to leave the office," said Demilt.

"When Laurie called me that evening and told me what had transpired and that the director wasn't going to do anything about it I called immediately," said Holley.

After both employees spoke with 1011 North Platte Anchor, Adam Uhernik about their concerns.

"The way the process works is our information, the confidentiality the privacy of applicants and confidentiality of the records we have in our hands is protected by federal law," said Bennett.

Bennet provided proof of the federal laws, she showed 10/11 News guidelines by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a list of federal laws.

Anchor Adam Uhernik even asked her point blank: "So would you get into trouble if you picked up the phone and called police and said. 'hey I have someone here that applied with an active warrant?'

"It is absolutely by federal law specifically forbidden.. period," said Bennett.

Bennett says there are only a few instances that a director may disclose information even to authorities and employees below the director position are not allowed to.

"We don't do it period. No level below me will ever do it and survive doing it," said Bennett.

Now, former employees Holley and Demilt say they are weighing their options when it comes to a wrongful termination lawsuit.

10/11 spoke with the police department and the sheriff's office about this issue.

Both say there is no law requiring the director to report someone with an active warrant.

The sheriff's office says their deputies did arrest the man that was applying for housing.

Bennett says the applicant with the warrant never lived in their housing.