Dan Hust | Democrat
Jeffersonville resident David Sager, right, listens on Wednesday as his attorney, Michael Sussman, details his allegations against county officials, including Health and Family Services Commissioner Randy Parker, who hired Sager as his deputy in October and then fired him this past month.
Sager fires back
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO June 14, 2013 Alleging he was fired a month ago for uncovering illegal activities, former Sullivan County Family Services Deputy Commissioner David Sager is suing the county for wrongful termination.
Sager’s attorney, well-known civil rights lawyer Michael Sussman, announced the lawsuit at a press conference Wednesday inside the Government Center.
“The termination… was retaliatory and contrary to Section 75-b of the New York State Civil Service Law, which prohibits retaliatory termination where the basis of the retaliation is expression about matters of public importance, particularly public health, safety and welfare,” Sussman said.
Documents filed by Sager and Sussman in Sullivan County Supreme Court this week allege that unnamed members of Family Services’ legal, temporary assistance and child protective services staff were engaged in fraud and illegal activities.
“Specifically, plaintiff [Sager] reported that a serious case of sexual abuse known to CPS [Child Protective Services] staff had not been, and then was not being, properly or timely investigated,” reads a portion.
“Further, plaintiff advised [Health and Family Services Commissioner Randy] Parker that neglect and incompetence on the part of DSS’ [Dept. of Social Services] legal staff was causing the failure to conduct a timely and proper investigation,” it continues.
The suit says Sager felt the issue was being handled in a manner contrary to law and endangering the safety of the involved child.
It also alleges that Parker fired Sager without stating a reason to him instead of addressing the matter with the involved staff. It says Parker had up to that point only praised Sager’s work and intended to expand his duties.
Though the suit is against county government as a whole and does not identify anyone other than Sager and Parker, Sussman said on Wednesday that Senior Family Services Attorney Colleen Cunningham was involved in what he termed “neglected” cases.
Sager is seeking reinstatement to the position, back pay and benefits, attorneys’ fees and any other damages the court sees fit to award, plus pre- and post-judgement interest.
Sager did not comment during the press conference, and county officials including Cunningham, Parker, County Attorney Sam Yasgur, Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson, Legislature Vice Chairman Gene Benson and Acting County Manager Josh Potosek either could not be reached or declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
Warning officials not to destroy relevant documents, Sussman encouraged other county employees to come forward if they have information about alleged wrongdoing.
“This is not a lawsuit being brought for personal reasons,” he said. “… The issue is that the government, if we’re right, has been hijacked for an impermissible motive.”