FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A state worker will receive $500,000 to settle a whistleblower lawsuit against the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Sarah Missy McCray filed the suit in 2005 under the state's Whistleblower Act, claiming former Transportation Secretary William Nighbert had threatened her. McCray claimed in the lawsuit that she was a victim of retaliation because she cooperated with an attorney general's investigation into the hiring practices of Gov. Ernie Fletcher's Republican administration.
Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, said he is pleased with the settlement.
"I appreciate how difficult this has been for Ms. McCray and applaud her pursuit of justice," Beshear said. "It's no secret that many state employees were mistreated over the past four years."
The Fletcher administration was marred by scandal that involved the hiring and firing of hourly employees based on political considerations. Such activities are illegal under Kentucky law.
"This case is one of the most egregious examples of how many state workers came to work each day fearing for their jobs," Beshear said in a statement. "It left us with the task of cleaning up the mess created by the previous administration."
Under the settlement, McCray will also be reassigned to the Personnel Cabinet.
A special grand jury returned 29 indictments in the hiring investigation, which ran for much of Fletcher's term from 2003 through 2007. Fletcher was among the people named in the indictments. The charges against Fletcher were later dropped in a negotiated agreement with prosecutors. He pardoned everyone else charged in the case, including Nighbert.
The indictment against Nighbert alleged that he blocked McCray from getting a bonus because she had testified to the special grand jury.
The indictment also alleged that Nighbert told McCray "that if it were 20 years ago, 'I probably would have come back there and socked you in the mouth."'
Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe said McCray stood to win a much larger settlement if the case had been decided by a jury.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)