LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A federal lawsuit has been filed against Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Department of Labor Secretary David Dickerson by a former state employee who claims she was fired in an alleged act of retaliation.
"Chris is the first casualty of Governor Bevin and Secretary of Labor Dickerson's campaign to silence the teachers, the public employees and other concerned citizens,” attorney Ted Walden said of his client, Chris Cooke.
Lawyers from Adams Landenwich Walton, PLLC, are representing Cooke, a former state employee and KY 120 United county leader.
KY 120 United is an advocacy group supporting public education, among other things, and spent a fair amount of time in Frankfort rallying in support of three education-related bills being considered during this year’s legislative session.
Cooke was fired from her position as a paralegal for a worker’s compensation judge in Ashland just six days after attending teacher rallies in Frankfort.
Cooke used a comp day and said she never used her work equipment for matters related to KY 120.
An assistant to the Secretary of Labor David Dickerson was the one who terminated her.
Cooke and her lawyers are suing Dickerson and Bevin, claiming the termination is in violation of her First Amendment rights to speech and association.
“It went from shock to anger to sadness to humiliation to actually hearing people that I’ve known for years say, ‘We told you so. We told you not to speak up. We told you he would come after you,’” Cooke said. “And I wanted to look at those people and say, ‘That’s not fair, that’s not right.’ We cannot continue to trample people who are too scared to use their voice.”
Cooke said she is a Republican and voted for Bevin.
“I believed his promises in the beginning,” she said. “I’m not a supporter of Gov. Bevin any longer. He has violated my party’s trust in him.”
Lawyers said they know there is fear among other public employees who have spoken out like Cooke did.
“We hope that Chris can serve not only as a model but a leader and a rallying point for others who feel threatened by the administration because of what they’re doing, trying to protect some of the fundamental aspects of our society like public education,” attorney Laura Landenwich said.
WAVE 3 News has reached out to Bevin’s office but has not heard back.