‘Best of the best’: New Castle County attorney files lawsuit over firing | The Latest from WDEL News
A New Castle County attorney who was fired this summer has filed a federal lawsuit claiming dismissal without cause or trial.
Assistant District Attorney Sanjay Bhatnagar, who claims district chief Matt Meyer called him “the best of the best,” has been hired to take a leadership role in supporting the district’s CARES Act initiative, acting as legal advisor to the small business and nonprofit committees Organizations acted. New Castle County had received its own CARES Act grant of $ 322 million regardless of the state’s stake. These “significant” timely tasks were taken on by Bhatnagar in addition to his existing work.
Bhantagar will be represented by Attorney Tom Neuberger in lawsuit filed January 31, 2021 that named New Castle County, County Executive Matt Meyer and County Attorney Wilson Davis.
The lawsuit alleges that Bhatnagar worked overtime for the entire July 4th holiday weekend so that the county could provide the public with funding programs under the CARES law as soon as possible. At the same time, District Attorney Karen Sullivan reassigned 10 exemption requests. Applications were due on July 8 – the same day that Bhatnagar was holding meetings for both pandemic committees.
Just two weeks earlier, Bhatnagar’s brother was hospitalized with COVID-19 in Arizona and “near death,” the lawsuit said.
After learning that his brother was critically ill, Bhatnagar received a call from his former law school roommate, Sam Kamyans, whose New Castle County’s Akin Gump office was retained for CARES Act matters.
“Because [Bhatnagar]Kamyans was stressed due to his work and family situation and had no sleep. He offered to provide the plaintiff with basic assistance in his work on the CARES Act Task Force Committees, “the complaint states.” Due to his sleep deprivation and overloaded work schedule, the plaintiff accepted Kamyan’s offer and asked for basic help. “
Bhatnagar had asked Kamyans to research scholarship programs in other jurisdictions that could be used as models by his small business and nonprofit committees.
“There [Bhatnagar] He used his professional judgment and expertise to seek assistance from an outside attorney, which was consistent with the manner he had done on multiple occasions to implement the district chief’s priority initiatives, “the complaint alleged, the district chief accused , based on his testimony at the introductory meetings of the CARES Act Task Force Committee to take appropriate action, including finding basic assistance, to carry out the district leader’s priority initiatives. “
The next day, July 7, 2020, Bhatnagar claims he was verbally abused by his manager, District Attorney Davis, through the email he sent from Davis while on vacation. The email alleged that Bhatnagar broke “unwritten protocol”. A copy of the email was not transcribed as part of the complaint.
“Defendant Davis argued that the plaintiff should be able to do this unprecedented and uniquely complex task under a daunting federal emergency law himself, without” outside help, an experienced corporate legal advisor, “the complaint read.
Bhatnagar replied, saying that he did not think it was a “big deal” to ask for help as it was the only way to complete all of the work assigned to him within the time allotted by his superiors. “He worked around the clock and also helped other county employees with their jobs.
On July 8, 2020, after falling asleep in his office after a full day’s work, Bhatnagar was dismissed in a two-minute conversation over the phone in which Davis Bhatnagar said:
“‘You are serving for my pleasure'” and that it was time for him to “go”.
Bhatnagar asked for mercy. During this time, court records laughed that the lead county solicitor Sullivan was laughing.
After hanging up, Bhatnagar Meyer wrote an SMS:
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“Matt – please call me. My brother almost died last week and I haven’t slept in days. I gave my life to NCC for 3 years. I really did
I love it here and want to keep serving. 5 minutes. That’s it.”
Meyer did not reply to Bhatnagar’s text.
A follow-up email from Davis, sent to Bhantagar’s personal email shortly thereafter, suggested a separation agreement, including a month’s severance pay. If he did not sign it, Bhantagar was ordered to be fired. Bhatnagar did not sign the separation agreement and said he should never return to the office to pick up his personal items, including family and religious items.
At a future unemployment benefit hearing in November, court documents show Davis said Bhatnagar was fired on “gross grounds”. Davis claimed a resignation letter had been issued. To date, Bhatnagar said he never received this letter and a copy was not made available to his lawyers upon request.
Later, in the same hearing, Assistant District Attorney Laura Hay alleged that Bhatnagar was a fire for an “isolated act” – Akin Gump’s email asking for help, a move Hay described as a “gross deviation” from the standard of conduct designated. “”
The judge at the unemployment hearing found that New Castle County had not found a “fair reason” for Bhatnagar’s dismissal and stated that he “believed he had authority to seek legal assistance from an outside lawyer to obtain”.
The federal lawsuit alleges violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that Bhanatgar was not granted any of the safeguards granted to him by the NCC Code or Policies, with no disciplinary hearing ever scheduled and no opportunity to appeal his dismissal . It is further alleged that Bhatnagar’s personnel file contained nothing but awards and no written documentation in support of disciplinary action, let alone dismissal. The only instantly flammable crime listed in the NCC’s Disciplinary Policy, according to the complaint, was selling drugs on the county property or during work hours.
In response to a request for comment, county spokesman Brian Cunningham told WDEL:
“We deny the allegations in the complaint and look forward to proving the truth in court.”
The lawsuit seeks damages and punitive damages, including, but not limited to, loss of wages, reimbursement, annuity, COBRA and other benefits, as well as disability, physical and emotional injury, pain and suffering, emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, and reputational harm . A letter of apology is also sought.
District chief Matt Meyer heartlessly fired a respected minority attorney with a lead role in the Cares Act initiative while the attorney’s brother was on the verge of dying from COVID. Apparently, the Meyer administration pays lip service to diversity and inclusion in the workplace : So Good – The respected Indian attorney has been shunned in the Legal Department, dismissed on pretext, denied protection of progressive disciplines, and deprived of the most basic constitutional right to due process and defense. The inhumane treatment of this South Asian practitioner by the Meyer administration The Hindu attorney points to his willful and ruthless disregard for established laws and guidelines for fair employment and anti-discrimination, “said Neuberger.
The lawsuit is not the first against Meyer. Current and former New Castle County police officers have filed a lawsuit against the county alleging the workplace is a “safe haven” for a “serial sexual predator” in former Deputy Captain Quinton Watson. In the lawsuit, the women allege the county “ignored” Watson’s behavior and promoted him anyway.
In a separate lawsuit, another officer filed suit against Counties Meyer and Watson after alleging she was put on Watson’s “hit list” for being pregnant, injured and pregnant while at work.
Meyer was also the subject of an ethics complaint that WDEL reported in August.
Read the full complaint in the Bhatnagar case: