Former officer sues DEC, says he was forced from job

Friday, July 11, 2014
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— A former DEC officer based in Fulton County is suing the state agency, claiming he was forced out after he filed a complaint against a state police investigator.

Keith Manners filed suit in U.S. District Court in Albany last week against the state Department of Environmental Conservation, several superiors and the state police investigator.

The Fulton County resident contends in the suit that he was forced out of his job with the DEC earlier this year after what he alleges was a pattern of retaliation on the part of his superiors related to the complaint he filed against the investigator.

Manners alleges that in the campaign to force him out, he was first suspended for six months and then notified he would be terminated, the complaint reads.

“Plaintiff was singled out for punishment and brought up on charges on two different occasions,” the complaint reads. “On both occasions there was no legitimate basis for discipline, and, certainly no basis for the proposed severe discipline.”

Among Manners’ claims are conspiracy to deprive him of his right to petition the government and conspiracy to deprive him of his right to continued employment.

Named as defendants are the state Department of Environmental Conservation along with five individuals described as DEC employees. Also named is the state police investigator. The state police itself, however, is not named.

The DEC did not respond to a request for comment for this story, and a state police spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Manners is represented by attorney Ryan M. Finn, who did not return a call for comment.

The series of events began, Manners claims in the suit, with a February 2013 domestic incident in which he described himself and his child as the victims.

Manners was unhappy that the state police investigation did not result in an arrest, and was unhappy with the investigator’s handling of the case.

With that, he filed a complaint against the investigator. He then claims that the investigator moved to retaliate by looking for “dirt” on Manners and then communicated information related to the domestic incident to the DEC “in an effort to cause problems with plaintiff’s job.”

Prior to that, Manners had been “repeatedly praised” as a DEC officer. Afterward, though, “plaintiff was repeatedly harassed, scrutinized and, ultimately brought up on trumped up charges in an effort to ruin plaintiff’s reputation and career.”

Manners also claims violations of state human rights law and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He alleges the stress and anxiety exacerbated a pre-existing disability from his military service and that the DEC demanded protected and confidential health information beyond a doctor’s note.

The DEC ultimately moved to terminate Manners in December. He resigned in February, the suit reads, because he believed the retaliation and mistreatment would continue.

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