Injured trooper fights Nevada Highway Patrol over job, status

The lawyer for former Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Ken Gager, who was seriously injured seven years ago by a mail bomb, says the highway patrol has illegally forced his client into retirement.

Gager has been battling the highway patrol since 1998 over what he says is an attempt to take away his status as a sworn officer.

Gager is listed as 88 percent disabled after 21 reconstructive surgeries to repair damage caused by the bomb blast.

He says he worked in the User Services Unit for four years before NHP officials decided he couldn't retain his status as a trooper with his injuries.

Deputy Attorney General Steve Quinn, however, says the position isn't being reclassified, and it was always a civil position until Gager took the job.

Despite the legal battle, which is scheduled for an arbitration hearing Oct. 31, lawyer Jack Kennedy of Reno says Gager was forced to file a new lawsuit last week because of continual harassment and retaliation by his supervisors, which forced him into a medical retirement where he earns less than half the income he was making.

In August 2000, Kennedy says, Gager was pushed into accepting administrative leave with pay in trade for promises he would be assessed to find out what job he could do and be transferred to another section or department.

In addition, a doctor was warning that his medical condition was deteriorating because of the stress he was under.

However, as soon as he agreed to the leave, the lawsuit says, the highway patrol forgot all about the deal - leaving Gager in limbo and worried that, if his leave were withdrawn, he would be out of a job and left with no way to support himself or his family.

"Because of the risk to plaintiff that he would be left with no means of support, plaintiff had no choice but to apply for his medical disability retirement," the complaint says.

In addition, Kennedy said the Attorney General's Office has interfered with any transfer unless Gager agrees to drop all legal actions against the state.

"The NHP has refused to transfer Mr. Gager to a different department despite a boss who Mr. Gager says berates him, ridicules his disabilities and creates a hostile work environment," he said.

"That's a flat lie," said Quinn. "The implication we refused to allow a transfer unless he dismissed his lawsuit is false."

He said the deal was that, if Gager got the transfer he wanted, he would agree not to later claim that NHP forced him to transfer - "because he has a history of doing that."

He said NHP had every intention of keeping its bargain and finding Gager a new job that fits his experience and abilities.

"They've never had a chance to do the assessment," Quinn said.

Kennedy filed motions Tuesday asking to combine the 1998 case and the new complaint accusing NHP and the state of retaliation and discrimination. It calls for damages beginning with the estimated $375,000 Gager will lose in salary because he no longer works at NHP and including punitive damages for what he described as treatment that is "shameful, despicable and an embarrassment to the state."

Quinn said the whole thing is a scheme by Kennedy to get Gager's case out of arbitration and make it appear he was damaged.

"Before he asked for medical retirement, there were no damages because he was working, he was getting his trooper's salary," he said. "Now because his medical retirement is so much less, he can claim damages."

Quinn said NHP has been willing to work with Gager since he was first injured and started by finding a way to bring him back to work when, before, troopers who were seriously injured would have been retired.

He said the position in records was upgraded to supervisor to make sure Gager received the same pay.

He said Gager has consistently taken the position that NHP is against him and trying to cheat him but that Gager's litigation "basically arises because of what the department was going to do for him, not to him."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment