HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — As they fight allegations that Connecticut FBI agents retaliated against employees for whistleblowing, federal government officials are refusing to release details of a legal settlement with a special agent and asking a judge to throw out another employee’s lawsuit.
Special Agent Kurt Siuzdak’s lawsuit, filed in 2014, exposed allegations of internal strife and dysfunction within the FBI’s main Connecticut office in New Haven. It also disclosed a 2013 visit to the New Haven office by then-Director James Comey, who apologized to employees for “the failure of the FBI’s executive management to correct the leadership failures” in Connecticut.
Siuzdak’s lawsuit was reported settled in court documents filed in March, but the FBI and Justice Department have declined to release the details and rejected recent requests under public records laws by The Associated Press for a copy of the deal. Officials would say only that there was no admission of wrongdoing in the settlement.
Federal officials are now battling another lawsuit by a second New Haven FBI employee, electronics technician Omar Montoya, according to court documents obtained by the AP. Montoya alleges the retaliation against him included his supervisors falsely labeling him an “insider threat” to the FBI, which sparked an investigation, and authorizing unwarranted surveillance of him.
Siuzdak and Montoya have declined to comment on the lawsuits, which were filed in federal court.
Officials at FBI headquarters in Washington and Patricia Ferrick, the special agent in charge of the New Haven office since 2013, also declined to comment on the lawsuits.
Thomas Spina, an assistant U.S. attorney representing the New Haven FBI office, said Justice Department policy prevented him from commenting on pending litigation and releasing details of settlements with employees. In court documents, federal officials denied the allegations in both lawsuits.
“We take the allegations seriously,” Spina said.
Montoya sued the FBI, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray in September. He said Ferrick and other supervisors began a campaign of retaliation against him after he began helping Siuzdak with Siuzdak’s internal complaint against Ferrick and other officials for alleged discrimination and retaliation. Montoya was Siuzdak’s volunteer equal employment opportunity affairs counselor.
Siuzdak, a 21-year FBI veteran, sued the Justice Department on allegations that Ferrick and her predecessor, Kimberly Mertz, blocked his pursuit of several management positions and started baseless internal investigations against him after he reported alleged workplace time and attendance fraud.
Montoya, an Army veteran hired by the FBI in 2010, said the retaliation and harassment against him began shortly after he interviewed Ferrick and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kline in April 2015 as part of Siuzdak’s internal complaint, according to his lawsuit.
Montoya also had reported alleged abuse of power in the New Haven office to national FBI officials, which he said upset New Haven FBI leaders.
He said FBI New Haven officials authorized unnecessary surveillance of him, gave him bogus bad performance reviews and threatened to fire him on false allegations of attendance policy violations.
His lawsuit also said officials caused a “fraudulent and frivolous ‘insider threat’ investigation” to be started against him, by labeling him as someone who posed a “physical, terrorist, intelligence, or other security risk to the FBI.”
He said the stress from the retaliation and harassment caused health problems that made him miss work.
“He was discriminated and/or retaliated against and subjected to a hostile work environment because of his participation in civil rights,” Montoya’s lawsuit says.
In court documents, federal prosecutors denied Montoya’s allegations and asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
By DAVE COLLINS
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