Edison nursing professor claims retaliation

Edison nursing professor claims retaliation

By Matt Grant. CREATED Apr 20, 2012

FORT MYERS - An Edison State College nursing professor says she's being forced out for speaking out.

"I felt that the more I spoke out," said Dr. Cheryl Turton, "the more bad things would happen to me."

This isn't the first time Fox 4 has reported on accusations of retaliation at Edison.

Turton, who joined the nursing school in 2009, says her contract isn't being renewed because she believes she asked too many questions.

Last November she told the board of trustees that the college had "a culture of fear so deep I'm shaking."

She says she frequently asked questions about the RN to BSN program's lack of national accreditation.

"I was vocal about it a number of times throughout my employment," said Turton. "I often asked why we weren't making any progress on these things."

While Turton raised questions, she says her boss, Interim Nursing Director Dr. Denise McNulty, created a "hostile work environment."

"And it just came over time that [asking questions] seemed to be taken as a problem," said Turton. "That I was a problem employee."

"At one point [McNulty] stated you are the only person who asks about accreditation," said Turton.

Last April, Turton got a memo from McNulty saying her contract would be shortened by two months and her pay reduced from $72,254 to $53,785.

Four months later, she threatened to file a grievance against McNulty, and says the next day she was reassigned to the Charlotte campus.

"Because she could not tell me why she had reassigned me," said Turton, "I said this feels like punishment and retaliation."

The faculty union agreed.

"This action is a violation of the...contract and constitutes a retaliatory action against Dr. Turton for her grievance filed against Dr. McNulty and her efforts to bring to light the severe problems with accreditation."

The union says it would also be a "deviation from past practice" since "any transfer to another campus has to be voluntary."

"Because Dr. Turton has been a 'whistleblower,'" union president Ellie Bunting wrote in a letter to McNulty and the college's legal department, "she is now being treated to retaliatory actions by her interim supervisor, Dr. Denise McNulty, and perhaps even the highest administration, that has gone to great lengths to hide the accreditation problems in the nursing program."

Turton says she was taken out of the classroom and reassigned to an online teaching position.

"I had to vacate my office on campus," said Turton. "I had to only teach online so I was being put out to pasture."

In February, she was told the college won't be renewing her contract.

"The message that you receive," she said, "is just to keep quiet, do your job and not say anything."

Fox 4 wanted to get the college's side. A spokesperson told us they do not comment on personnel matters.

We wanted to see Turton's employee evaluations and requested a copy of her personnel file but were told, by state law, we can't have access to that.

Matt Grant