- Associated Press - Saturday, April 18, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - The former head of the Arizona Department of Administration is seeking nearly $1.5 million from the state, claiming he was wrongfully terminated and that former Gov. Jan Brewer’s administration engaged in unethical conduct.

Brian McNeil contends in his filing that high-ranking officials attempted to overturn a $3 billion mental health contract, that Brewer gave staff raises that were outside state policy, and that her staffers stalled on the release of public records to the media.

Brewer, who left office in January, declined to comment on McNeil’s accusations.

McNeil’s filing is a precursor to a lawsuit, The Arizona Republic reported (http://bit.ly/1FUYpgM ).

McNeil, who was fired in October, said in his claim that he was terminated without explanation and was denied the opportunity to respond to what he called unfounded allegations of racist behavior and sexual misconduct toward a female employee.

The claim asserts McNeil had his reputation damaged by the firing, tarnishing a long and distinguished career in state government.

The claim seeks $1.46 million, including $500,000 for damage to reputation and $250,000 for emotional distress.

In addition to seeking monetary damages, the claim provides a peek into the inner workings of the governor’s office. One of the biggest controversies highlighted by the claim centers on a $3 billion state mental health contract awarded to Mercy Maricopa.

The claim contends that Brewer was upset that Mercy Maricopa won the bid. In March 2014, according to the claim, a lobbyist said Brewer’s chief of staff, Scott Smith, authorized a legislative attempt to get the contract overturned and awarded to Magellan Health Services. However, the contract was not derailed.

The claim also contends that Brewer engaged in a “bait and switch” in regard to personnel reform initiatives, which imposed strict procedures to follow in granting raises for state employees.

McNeil ordered a rollback last summer of inappropriate raises that had been given to some staff members at the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System without his agency’s approval. The raises were first uncovered by The Arizona Republic, forcing the retirement of PSPRS Administrator Jim Hacking.

McNeil claims he discovered that other state agencies, including the governor’s office, also had given out improper raises without approval.

Kraig Marton, McNeil’s attorney, was asked why his client didn’t speak publicly before he was terminated about the behavior he now alleges. Marton wrote, “It is true that things happened that troubled Mr. McNeil while he was in state government, but he did not react or act at the time because he hoped they would get better.

“McNeil’s intention in discussing the matters now is to share some perspective on the additional impact on him resulting from the poor behavior and practices of the governor’s most senior staffers,” he wrote.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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