DMV forced to rehire whistle-blower

Staff WriterSeptember 11, 2009 

— An assistant supervisor at the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles who was fired after blowing the whistle on wrongdoing in the agency will get his job back under a legal settlement signed this week.

Ken Cassidy was fired from the division's License and Theft Bureau in March 2008 after he was accused of violating an order not to talk to any DMV employees in the emissions program.

Months earlier, Cassidy had told The News & Observer about improper hiring within the program and that some emissions staff had so little work to do that they finished by lunchtime.

Reports about the issues led to the resignation of the bureau's deputy director and the firing of another assistant supervisor. DMV officials were forced to give emissions staff additional duties.

Cassidy appealed his dismissal, and a state administrative law judge ruled the firing was "excessive, punitive and unreasonable," and said he should be reinstated. The State Personnel Commission rejected the opinion. Cassidy appealed that decision to state Superior Court.

Under the settlement signed Wednesday, Cassidy will get his DMV job back, as well as more than $77,000 in back pay, as well as other lost benefits. The state will also pay $10,000 in legal fees to Cassidy's lawyer, Michael Byrne of Raleigh.

"I'm excited to be going back to work," Cassidy said. "It's been a long time."

As part of the settlement, Cassidy agreed to drop a federal whistle-blower lawsuit he filed which named several current and former DMV and DOT officials as defendants, including former DMV Commissioner Bill Gore.

Gore issued the order barring Cassidy from talking to co-workers after emissions staff alleged that he had harassed them. Two of them later said in a hearing that they were upset that Cassidy had exposed the problems in the emissions program.

Margaret Howell, spokeswoman for the DMV, declined to comment about the settlement Thursday.

Cassidy is set to return to work Sept. 21. or 919-829-4698

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