An assistant supervisor for the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles' License and Theft Bureau who was fired after blowing the whistle, has filed a lawsuit in federal court to get his job back and collect $800,000 or more in damages.
Ken Cassidy was fired in March 2008 after he was accused of violating an order not to talk to any DMV employees in the emissions program, Dan Kane reports.
Several months earlier, Cassidy had tipped The News & Observer to an improper hire within the program and to the fact that some emissions staff had so little work to do that they were finished with their tasks by lunch time.
Cassidy's information undid the improper hire, which also led to the resignation of the bureau's deputy director and the firing of another assistant supervisor. His information also caused DMV officials to give emissions staff additional duties.
Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison found the order that led to Cassidy's firing "excessive, punitive and unreasonable" and said he should be reinstated. But the State Personnel Commission rejected the opinion. Cassidy has appealed that decision to state Superior Court.
The federal lawsuit names the DMV, the state Department of Transportation and several former and current DMV and DOT officials as defendants, including former DMV Commissioner Bill Gore.
Gore issued the order after learning emissions staff alleged Cassidy had harassed co-workers. Two of those employees acknowledged in a hearing that they were upset that Cassidy had exposed the problems within the emissions program.
Gore and DMV officials said they had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.
More after the jump.
Cassidy's attorney, Michael C. Byrne of Raleigh, said recent DMV actions regarding two other personnel cases suggest the state is taking a hardline against Cassidy for cleaning up the DMV.
The state recently paid $55,000 to settle a wrongful firing complaint filed by former deputy DMV commissioner Wayne Hurder, preventing a public airing of a case that had plenty of political intrigue. Hurder was fired after an extensive internal investigation found he had allowed a former Greene County patronage boss, Eddie Carroll Thomas, long-standing and widespread influence in hiring, work assignments and other personnel matters within the DMV's Driver and Vehicle Services Section.
The DMV also brought back the assistant supervisor involved in the improper hire that Cassidy reported. Purnell Sowell, formerly an assistant supervisor in the Charlotte district, was hired in February as an emissions inspector in Rowan County. His annual salary is $60,311.