When it came to his employment, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was a revolving door for Philadelphia Democratic ward leader Dan Savage, a steady paycheck between political campaigns.
Now Savage is suing the commission, contending that his bosses changed the rules about running for office without notifying employees even as he was campaigning unsuccessfully last year for a seat in the state Senate.
A spokesman for the Turnpike Commission on Thursday said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court last week in Philadelphia, is the inverse of expectations for a public agency long known for its cozy political patronage.
The commission's first inspector general, after retiring in 2013, called for the agency to be disbanded, citing pervasive political influence, patronage hiring, and pay-to-play contracting despite a grand jury investigation that led to criminal charges against eight people.
Savage, in his suit, says he announced in mid-2013 his plan to challenge State Sen. Christine Tartaglione in the 2014 Democratic primary. He finished second in a three-way race; Tartaglione went on to win a fifth term in the Second District, which stretches from Fishtown to Bustleton.
Savage says he was fired from his commission job in March 2014 - 10 days after requesting a leave of absence for 45 days in order to campaign.
That firing resulted, his suit says, from a change in policy made in January 2014 but not communicated to employees until June that year. It required them to resign if they sought public office.
That change, the suit says, "was imposed specifically to prevent" Savage from challenging Tartaglione in the primary, "and/or to retaliate against him for doing so."
Savage, who was paid $76,469 per year as a regional office coordinator in the King of Prussia office, is seeking more than $150,000, claiming his First Amendment right to free speech has been violated.
The Democratic leader of the 23d Ward in the Lower Northeast, Savage has taken previous turns at the Turnpike Commission.
He first went to work there in 2003 and was a turnpike safety officer when he quit in November 2006 after winning a special election to fill City Council's Seventh District seat, which had been vacated after Councilman Rick Mariano was convicted on corruption charges.
Savage served 13 months on Council but was defeated in the 2007 Democratic primary by Maria Quiñones Sánchez, who next month will be sworn in for a third term.
Savage returned to the commission as a safety officer in 2008, but took a leave in 2011 to challenge Sanchez, who defeated him again in that year's Democratic primary.
He returned once more to a turnpike job and worked until he was fired.
Savage's father, Timothy, was the 23d Ward Democratic leader before him. The older Savage is now a U.S. district judge in Philadelphia, the venue where his son filed his suit.
The younger Savage is now attending the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University, according to his lawyer, Alan Epstein.