Four former Nevada Highway Patrol troopers have filed a federal court suit charging the highway patrol, governor's office and former Public Safety Director Dick Kirkland harassed them and violated their civil rights.
Stuart Handte, former head of the Highway Patrol Association, former troopers Tony Dozen and Matt Paszek and trooper Lori McGrath have received a "right to sue notification" from the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, according to the lawsuit filed Monday afternoon.
The suit alleges Kirkland, current patrol Col. Dave Hosmer and others in the highway patrol violated their rights and that someone in either the Governor's Office or Attorney General's Office "breached confidentiality to NHP command" after Handte took whistleblower complaints from members of the Highway Patrol Association to the Governor's Office.
The suit charges that Jim Struemph, one of NHP's command officers at the time, accused Handte of starting a war with Kirkland. Then, the suit says, Handte was ordered into Kirkland's office to discuss the issues he had raised supposedly in confidence with the governor's office and attorney general.
Handte and Dozen were relieved of active duty as troopers after they left a pizza restaurant to answer a call and forgot to pay a bill of less than $3.
They later paid the bill. Because of that incident, both were held on administrative leave more than a year and, according to the lawsuit, eventually forced to resign. At the time, Handte was a 19-year veteran of NHP and Dozen 14 years. Paszek and McGrath each had 20 years with the patrol.
The action charges Kirkland had a "hit list" of people, including Handte, he was determined to force out of the highway patrol.
The suit says Paszek was forced to resign after standing up for Handte and others and that McGrath was targeted because of letters to the editor written by her father which were critical of Kirkland. Her father, Paul McGrath, is a former Carson City sheriff.
The suit charges that McGrath was also discriminated against because of her gender and subjected to a hostile working environment at NHP.
The lawsuit charges Handte and the others were deliberately harassed, their rights as state employees and their constitutional rights including freedom of speech were violated numerous times and their status and reputations unfairly damaged.
It seeks not only general and compensatory damages but an unspecified amount of punitive damages against the state, Kirkland, Struemph, former NHP command officer Jim Farmer and Hosmer, now head of NHP.