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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Pray or else, pt II

fuck with my wife's prayer breakfast and you'll pay

State worker tells of scrutiny
Labor Department employee says he has been retaliated against after complaints about a superior's actions

By JAMES M. ODATO, Capitol bureau
First published: Wednesday, December 29, 2004

ALBANY -- Michael Cunningham says he can't sleep most nights because of the retaliation he's endured from his bosses at the state Department of Labor.

Since questioning a deputy commissioner's use of state resources to promote Gov. George Pataki's prayer breakfast, Cunningham says he's had to seek professional help to cope with "the constant waiting for -- what are they going to try to do to you next?"

Cunningham revealed Tuesday that he had complained to the state Inspector General's Office about a superior at the Labor Department who e-mailed other officials to drum up attendance at Pataki's prayer breakfast in May. He decided to go public, he said, after reading an account in Monday's Times Union about a State Liquor Authority employee, Patricia Freund, who is suing state officials for allegedly retaliating against her for asking questions about employees attending the governor's annual prayer breakfast on state time.

Cunningham, 53, of Colonie, a 25-year state employee and the Labor Department's director of training the past 16 years, still gets his salary of $101,634. He still arranges for staff development programs. But since this summer, when he complained to the Inspector General about Mary L. Hines, deputy commissioner for administration and public affairs, he has been moved out of the executive suite of the Labor Department, investigated for his travel to New York City and told to discontinue many routine business trips.

"I've really been beaten up since then," said Cunningham, who is considering a suit against the state in U.S. District Court.

Kevin Quinn, a Pataki spokesman, said, "This has nothing to do with the breakfast. This is an internal state Department of Labor personnel matter."

Cunningham said his authority has been undermined and his activities heavily scrutinized. He said Hines and Labor Commissioner Linda Angello hired a friend, Pam Kelly, for a newly created civil service post -- organizational development specialist -- to take some of his responsibilities.

Further, he said, his son's hourly job at the Labor Department was abolished by Hines.

In a letter to Hines Dec. 3, Cunningham's lawyer, John R. Saccocio, said his client's performance was consistently rated "outstanding."

"Prior to your arrival," he told Hines, "Mr. Cunningham had never filed a formal complaint."


Cunningham says Hines ordered an investigation of a trip he took to New York City in October to meet with staff there. The probe resulted in a memo directing him to take 1 hours off his attendance record for checking into his hotel at 3 p.m.; quitting time was supposed to be 4:30 p.m. on the trip.

The heavy scrutiny, personal slights and potentially improper treatment have taken their toll, he said. In an evaluation, his doctor, H. Kip Arnold, described Cunningham as depressed, anxious, and distraught, and wrote, "His symptoms seem clearly work-related."

His psychologist, Jessica Seidenberg, said in a letter she provided Cunningham that he is experiencing severe anxiety, moderate depression, poor sleep and high blood pressure. "It is my professional opinion that the conditions at his work place need to be improved so he can experience relief from the stressful conditions he has had to endure," she wrote.

Seidenberg noted that Cunningham's illnesses relate to a job where he is "highly regarded in his position but . . . has been troubled by "recent interactions with the deputy commissioner."

Cunningham says he isn't trying to be an activist "but I do know right from wrong."

Right. They're making waves about the governor's wife pet project. Ooops

posted by Steve @ 12:00:00 AM

12:00:00 AM

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