Local News

Former State Employee Gets More Money From Public Treasury

Posted April 23, 2004 4:58 a.m. EDT

— A former state employee who won $100,000 from the state over a job-harassment allegation has been paid $48,000 more for a complaint that the state violated his privacy during an investigation.

The case of Algie Toomer Jr. started a political maelstrom seven years ago. He claimed that his supervisors harassed him and denied promised pay raises and promotions.

The state Department of Transportation and the state Department of Correction agreed to pay Toomer $48,000 to settle his claim that they had violated his privacy rights by releasing the entire contents of his personnel file.

The DOT will pay $36,000, and Correction will pay $12,000 But neither will admit wrongdoing.

"From the DOT's perspective, given the circumstances, we believe that a settlement was in the best interest of everyone involved," DOT spokeswoman Ashley Memory said.

Correction spokesman Keith Acree said the settlement saves further legal costs.

Legislators who criticized the first settlement said they were just as surprised at the second.

"That beats anything I've ever heard," said Rep. Joe Kiser, R-Lincoln.

Kiser served on a state House committee that spent 15 months investigating the unusual $100,000 settlement Toomer won in 1997.

Lawyers for then-Gov. Jim Hunt negotiated the settlement. But a deputy attorney general later said he saw no valid reason for paying Toomer.

Toomer had been accused of misusing a state vehicle for personal use. He had been assigned to the Division of Motor Vehicles' emissions program, but DMV officials said Toomer served as then-Commissioner Alexander Killens' personal driver.

Toomer also told investigators that he served as a driver for state legislators.

Toomer was being paid about $34,000 annually when a state medical board found him permanently disabled in 1998.

The 52-year-old former Durham police officer receives about $11,550 a year in disability pay from the state and a similar amount in Social Security disability from the federal government, according to the state treasurer.

The controversy caused then-DOT Secretary Garland Garrett to release the contents of Toomer's personnel file to the news media. State employees' personnel files are generally confidential, but department heads can release files to the public if they think it is "essential to maintaining the integrity" of the agency.

After the files were released, the state Police Benevolent Association sued on Toomer's behalf in 2000. A Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2001, but the Court of Appeals reinstated it several months later, saying that Garrett might not have needed to disclose the entire file.