A former lawyer in the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet has filed suit against the agency, claiming she was fired after pointing out co-workers for running personal mail-order businesses, one for sex toys, from the office.
The former lawyer, Jacqueline Heyman, was an assistant general counsel in the agency’s Insurance Division in Frankfort. She alleges in a lawsuit filed Monday in Franklin Circuit Court that two clerical workers were “abusing their positions by operating outside businesses during operational hours and utilizing their office computers and other resources belonging to the Commonwealth in conducting said businesses.”
Heyman also claims to have told her supervisor about “widespread falsification” of payroll timesheets by “certain employees.”
She says she brought the moonlighting activity to the attention of her boss, the agency’s general counsel, in August.
His response, she claims, was to fire her on Aug. 31, without saying why. She contends she was fired for reporting the alleged misconduct. Her lawyer, Shane Sidebottom of Covington, says that’s a violation of the state whistleblower law.
The Public Protection Cabinet is a consumer-protection agency that oversees a large number of industries, including banking, insurance, horse-racing, construction and alcoholic beverage sales.
Heyman is seeking a jury trial, unspecified damages and legal costs. Public Protection Cabinet spokesman Dick Brown said the agency just received the complaint today, is reviewing it and has no comment.
In her lawsuit, first reported by The State-Journal, Heyman states that one of the former co-workers was selling products for Pure Romance, a Cincinnati-based purveyor of lotions, gels and sex toys like the “Mr. Dependable,” on Amazon.com.
Heyman says that another employee told her on Aug. 12 that one of the workers allegedly running a mail-order business on government time was in the general counsel’s office after 5 p.m. and “was observed over the general counsel’s desk in what appeared to be an inappropriate stance, that is, leaning across his desk with the female employee’s head together with the general counsel’s.”
Heyman joined the cabinet in April. In her 20 years as an attorney, the suit states, she served as an associate to the chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court and was deputy director and executive counsel of the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts.
Heyman states that she discussed the office misconduct with the executive director and general counsel of the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission on Aug. 20. She also told the commission that the general counsel “knowingly allowed rampant ethical violations and employee abuse of state time, policies, procedure and resources.”
The Ethics Commission would not say Thursday if it is investigating the matter. A spokeswoman said that if the agency deems the matter worth pursuing, it will issue an “initiating order” that will be a public record.
Reporter James McNair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 814.6543.