Another former member of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office is taking the office to court, bringing to six the number of lawsuits brought by former state prosecutors, agents, and top administrators.
In the latest suit, a former narcotics agent, Charles Horvath, claims he was fired by Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's chief of staff, Jonathan Duecker, for complaining about a cover-up during a drug operation.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court last month, names as defendants the Attorney General's Office, the head of the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, the agent in charge of the Allentown regional office, and Duecker, who at the time of the alleged cover-up was the special agent in charge of the bureau.
Jeffrey Johnson, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said the agency would not comment on the litigation.
The state Department of Labor and Industry said Horvath was let go because he lied on search warrants and permitted a male officer to search a female informant.
But his lawsuit claims Horvath was dismissed in part because he reported misconduct by a supervisor during an undercover drug buy in Allentown in May 2013.
In that operation, according to the suit, an informant was supposed to buy 10 bags of heroin from a dealer and deliver the drug to the agents. But when the informant turned over only nine bags, the agents searched him and found a hypodermic needle hidden in his left boot. The agents concluded that the informant had shot up one of the bags, and by doing so had compromised the case.
The supervisor, however, decided to get rid of the needle and proceed as if it never existed, according to the suit. That resulted in agents having to lie in key documents, including in an affidavit in support of a search warrant.
After complaining internally about what happened, Horvath was taken off street duty, given a less-prestigious desk job, and denied opportunities "to work overtime and earn overtime pay," the suit alleges.
Horvath was fired in August 2015. He claims he was fired despite a recommendation from an official in human resources that he merely be suspended.
Duecker - by then Kane's chief of staff - insisted that he be fired.
"Terror, fear, with a dark heart and iron fist is how Jon Duecker rules that office," said Lawrence Moran Jr., Horvath's lawyer.
Horvath's suit is the sixth against Kane, Duecker, or both.
The volume is "very uncommon," said Moran, who has also served as a lawyer for the Fraternal Order of Police, the union for narcotics agents in the Attorney General's Office.
One of those suits was filed by the human resources official who had recommended that Horvath be suspended, George Moore. He was fired in June 2015.
Moore says Kane dismissed him after he recommended that Duecker be fired for making sexual advances toward a female prosecutor and a female narcotics agent.
Instead, Duecker was promoted to chief of staff shortly after Moore urged that he be fired.
In rebuttal filings, Kane and Duecker have called the suits groundless. As for the harassment complaints, Duecker has denied any misconduct.
Duecker and Kane say they have immunity from being sued under laws that give wide leeway to public officials as to how they do their jobs.
The other suits are fallout from Kane's decision to shut down a sting operation in which Philadelphia elected officials were recorded pocketing cash from an undercover informant. In closing the sting without bringing charges, Kane publicly accused its investigators of targeting African American legislators.
The first suit was filed in March 2015 by Claude Thomas, a former case agent. Thomas, who is African American, claimed that Kane's statements were false and meant to intimidate and humiliate him.
In December, former state prosecutor Frank Fina, who supervised Thomas and launched the sting, filed an even more sweeping lawsuit. He was joined by two other former state prosecutors, a former agent and former State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan.
In large part, Fina's suit demands that Kane pay damages for conduct that is at the heart of the pending criminal case against the attorney general.
Prosecutors in Montgomery County have charged Kane with perjury, official oppression, and other crimes. They say Kane unlawfully leaked information to a newspaper to plant a story critical of Fina, whom she blamed for making public her decision to quash the sting case. Kane has pleaded not guilty.
In another suit, Michael Carson and Michael Cranga, agents still on the attorney general's staff, claim that Kane retaliated against them after they testified before a Philadelphia grand jury that was looking into the sting cases.