John Vest, a former Fayette County Detention Center officer who alerted the FBI to abuse of prisoners at the jail, has sued the local government over his firing Sept. 30.
William Jacobs, Vest's attorney, said Vest was not given a required pre-termination hearing by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government before charges were brought against him.
The Urban County Government Civil Service Commission sustained the firing of Vest, 46. Vest was fired for insubordination and inefficiency.
"The firing of him was totally in violation of the due process rights," Jacobs said. "Here's a man who points out all of this that's going on out there (at the jail) ... He all of a sudden becomes a villain. You ought to commend somebody that finds this stuff going on. He was doing a service to the community, and here's what they did to him."
Jacobs said the Civil Service Commission dealt only with Jacobs being absent from his job. Vest had not reported to work since Sept. 29, 2006, just after he went public at the direction of the FBI that he was a whistleblower, the attorney said.
Jacobs said after Vest's role as a whistleblower became public, Vest had asked to be put in positions at the jail where he would be safest, but Jacobs said detention center officials wanted to put Vest in the most dangerous places in the jail where a whistleblower on fellow officers could be placed. The places where officials wanted to assign Vest included the jail's custody section, he said.
"Nobody was going to watch his back at that place," he said. "He'd have done any kind of work, but don't stick him back there where he may not come out alive."
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Fayette Circuit Court, says Vest's absence from work was "due to purposeful retaliation by supervisors at the detention center."
Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry, said the mayor does not comment on pending lawsuits.
The suit asks that the Civil Service Commission's ruling be set aside, saying it is arbitrary and violates Vest's rights.
The suit also asks that pay and benefits Vest has lost be restored, with interest.
Five former jail officers were charged with abusing prisoners after the FBI's investigation. Former sergeants John McQueen and Anthony Estep, former corporals Clarence McCoy and Scott Tyree, and former lieutenant Kristine LaFoe were charged with beating prisoners and writing false reports in an attempt to cover it up in 2006.
McQueen and McCoy were each sentenced to 10 years in prison. LaFoe, was sentenced to a year in prison and two years of supervised release. Tyree was sentenced to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release. Estep was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and a year of supervised release.