- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A 25-year veteran with the Nebraska State Patrol is suing the agency and its new leader, accusing Col. Brad Rice of torpedoing his career advancement over a long-held grudge.

Trooper Todd Steckelberg, of Elkhorn, is seeking damages for lost wages and damage to his reputation. He’s also seeking punitive damages, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1IqGTSP ).

The lawsuit filed Friday says Rice kept Steckelberg from being promoted and from being transferred to the governor’s protection detail, even though Steckelberg says he was the most qualified candidate.

Steckelberg’s attorney, Joy Shiffermiller, said her client worked under the supervision of Rice in O’Neill in the early 2000s, but transferred to Omaha in part because of a hostile work environment created by Rice.

Steckelberg says the grudge stems from his complaint against Rice for missing an annual evaluation of Steckelberg, which the trooper says put him at a disadvantage when he sought a promotion to sergeant.

Rice came under fire earlier this year after Gov. Pete Ricketts nominated him to lead the agency. Rice served on an interview panel that denied several promotions to a female sergeant, who successfully sued for gender discrimination. Rice was also accused of saying that women shouldn’t be in law enforcement. Rice has said that comment was taken out of context.

Steckelberg’s lawsuit says Rice resented Steckelberg’s support of the female sergeant and Steckelberg’s role in Rice being investigated for religious proselytizing on the job.

Steckelberg also names several other patrol officials, saying they wrongly found he had violated patrol policy during a 2014 chase of a suspect.

Steckelberg says Rice berated him in May, shortly after he was confirmed as the patrol’s superintendent, and has unfairly required him to keep a daily log of his activities and keep his video camera and audio recording on at all times.

A patrol spokeswoman declined to comment, saying it’s against policy to comment on pending litigation.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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