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Archive for Thursday, September 23, 1999

FIRED EMPLOYEE SUES REVENUE DEPARTMENT

September 23, 1999

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The suit, filed Tuesday, asks for about $100,000 in damages.

A dismissed temporary worker for the Kansas Department of Revenue is suing that agency and its chief for firing him after he revealed thousands of dollars in income tax payment checks were nearly lost to a shredder.

A spokeswoman for Revenue Secretary Karla Pierce said Wednesday evening neither Pierce nor the department would comment on the suit because they had not seen it yet.

Daniel Copp of Auburn alleges in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Shawnee County District Court that he was fired for revealing that more than $50,000 in checks had been rescued from the shredder at the Revenue Department's warehouse in East Topeka.

Copp worked there as a file clerk and was employed by Key Staffing, a Topeka temporary employment agency that provides workers to the state.

After taking home a notebook listing amounts of checks and the dates on which they were found, Copp was dismissed by Key.

After revealing the problem to the Journal-World in July, Copp asked the State Civil Service Board to reinstate him claiming protection under the state's whistleblower protection law.

In August, that board said Copp was not a state employee and the board did not have jurisdiction over his dismissal.

In his lawsuit, Copp asks the court to review the board's decision as provided for by state law and to overturn it.

Copp then asks the court to find, in contrast to the board's decision, that he was a state employee protected by the whistleblower act. And, further, that his speaking out on problems at the Department of Revenue was protected by the First Amendment.

Copp is seeking a judgment in excess of $50,000 for damages for his dismissal and a judgment, also in excess of $50,000, for firing him for exercising his rights under state and federal law.

"The suit's necessary because I was treated wrong," Copp said. "What they said about me wasn't the truth. I thought this was the only recourse to take given the way I was treated by the state of Kansas."

Revenue officials have said Copp was dismissed because he revealed confidential tax information, specifically, copies of the pages of the notebooks, to the Journal-World and other reporters.

The notebooks do not list names, addresses or social security numbers of taxpayers.

-- Erwin Seba's phone message number is 832-7145. His e-mail address is eseba@ljworld.com.

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