FRANKFORT — Two state employees are appealing their terminations after separate investigations revealed one had inappropriate contact with an underage informant and the other gave legal advice on the Internet despite being told not to do so.
Mark Cassity, who was an Alcohol Beverage Control investigator, was terminated in March after an Office of Inspector General investigation found he had repeatedly called and had dinner with a then-18-year-old girl who was used by the ABC in undercover investigations of bars and stores that sell to minors. Cassity allegedly asked the girl to kiss him after the dinner.
Matthew Finley, a former lawyer with the Department of Insurance, was terminated in March after an Office of Inspector General investigation found that Finley had been answering questions on a legal Web site, JustAnswers.com, despite being told by department officials several months before that he could not do so. Finley was suspended for 25 days in 2010 for using his state computer and other state resources to answer questions on JustAnswers.com while he was on state time.
The Herald-Leader obtained both Office of Inspector General reports through the state's Open Records Act.
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Hearings on the appeals in both cases are scheduled for August, according to the Personnel Board, which hears employment disputes for merit employees.
Paul Fauri, a Frankfort lawyer who represents Finley and Cassity, said both men "deny all of the allegations."
Cassity, in documents in his file before the Personnel Board, wrote that he had cooperated fully with the Office of Inspector General investigation and that he had not violated any state policies and did not act inappropriately. Cassity said that he has been a good state employee and that his evaluations have been good. "There is no basis for me being terminated on these allegations, and I have done nothing wrong and certainly nothing to terminate me," Cassity wrote in his appeal.
Cassity had worked for ABC for nearly 20 years, according to his personnel file. He made $44,107 as an investigator.
Finley made $51,467 as a lawyer with the Department of Insurance, according to state records.
Finley, in his appeal before the Personnel Board, said the Department of Insurance had no basis to deny his request to answer legal questions on JustAnswers.com on his own time. The OIG investigation found that in August, Finley's supervisor had denied his request to perform outside legal work on JustAnswers.com, citing Kentucky Supreme Court rules that prohibit attorneys from sharing legal fees with non-lawyers. Finley was paid for the questions he answered on JustAnswers.com. The Web site also received part of the fee.
The OIG investigation found that he answered five questions on the Web site in December.
Finley, in his appeals of the termination and the denial of his ability to work for JustAnswers.com, said the agency provided no authority to say he could not work for the Web site.
"This action, even if there was a policy, is excessive or erroneous in view of all surrounding circumstances," Finley wrote. "I have been a good employee. My actions in no way have harmed my work with the Department of Insurance Legal Division, and there have been no violations of outside legal practice policy."
Finley was hired by the state in 2006.