Brent Rohrig and Vicki McCabe say they were fired after reporting coworkers for running a drug-smuggling ring inside the prison.
Two unit managers at a Jackson-area prison are suing the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), claiming they were wrongfully terminated after reporting illegal activity inside the jail.
The Detroit Free Press reports that the lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by Brent Rohrig and Vicki McCabe. Both Rohrig and McCabe are unit managers at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Center near Jackson, Michigan.
According to the Free Press, Rohrig and McCabe claim they were targeted by so-called “gotcha investigations,” intended to find any evidence of wrong-doing or rules violations. Rohrig says the investigation was launched only after he reported other employees for harassing a female colleague and running a drug-smuggling ring.
While Rohrig and McCabe lost their jobs after the audit, a 2018 civil service hearing officer entrusted with the case reversed the MDOC’s decision. The officer, says the Free Press, “blasted the department and ordered Rohrig and McCabe returned to their jobs with back pay, saying they had been the victims of arbitrary and unfair employee discipline.”
In his judgment, Michigan Civil Service Commission Hearing Officer Matthew Wyman said the charges filed against Rohrig and McCabe were “the essence of disparate, arbitrary, disproportionate discipline.” Wyman also noted that much of the evidence presented against the two throughout their 2018 hearings lacked any credibility or relevance.
Despite Wyman’s judgment, neither Rohrig nor McCabe say they’ve received much relief. Although they’ve received back-pay, McCabe told the Free Press that she had no family income or 401(k) savings to survive in the interim.
Because of the MDOC’s phony investigation, McCabe says she’s accrued significant tax penalties. And Rohrig believes there’s a chance “it will happen again.”
Attorney Jonathon Marko, who’s representing both plaintiffs, says his clients have suffered financially and emotionally.
“No one should ever have to go thru [sic] what my clients have went through,” Marko said. “I want to stop it from happening again and hold the MDOC responsible.”
Interestingly, the Michigan Department of Corrections maintains that it did nothing wrong in firing Rohrig and McCabe. WXYZ notes that a department spokesperson cited purportedly “racially offensive” texts sent by Rohrig. He also claimed that both unit managers deleted e-mails and other sensitive information following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
However, the Detroit Free Press offers some clarification: in Wyman’s judgment, he observed that Rohrig had turned over 2,498 of the 2,500 e-mails pertinent to the FOIA request. Wyman further noted that there was no compelling reason to believe that Rohrig intentionally deleted or withheld the missing two.
“At the same time, Wyman said in his ruling, another employeefailed [sic] to turn over more than 300 emails in response to the FOIA,” the Free Press recalls. Yet “that employee was never disciplined, let alone fired.”