City of Lander, Public Works Director being sued by former employee

(Lander, WY) – Michael Clancy, a former employee for the City of Lander, is suing the City along with Lander Public Works Director Lance Hopkin, citing the following six counts:

  • violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”)
  • violation of Federal Due Process
  • violation of State Due Process
  • wrongful termination/breach of contract
  • breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing
  • retaliatory discharge

    The complaint also requests for a “prayer for relief,” to award Clancy damages for lost wages and benefits, lost on-call pay, emotional stress, and attorney fees.

Clancy, who began working for the City as a Water Treatment Plant Operator approximately 15 years ago, is a member of the Army National Guard, and was during all times relevant.

According to the filed complaint, Clancy was not given a written contract, but the Managerial Handbook stated that he is entitled to continued employment provided that he conforms to certain standards of behavior, and that he can only be disciplined for just cause through a progressive discipline model.

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Between 2009 and 2010 while working for the City, he was deployed to combat in Iraq.

Upon returning from deployment, the City paid Clancy all his retirement including his contributions that he would have made had he not been deployed, with court documents indicating that Hopkin was not Clancy’s supervisor at the time.

On September 24th, 2018, Clancy was deployed to Afghanistan, and this time was denied his prorated salary and benefits when Hopkin was his supervisor.

Clancy understood this denial to be unfounded based on the prior, mentioned experience, so he contacted a VA representative to handle the situation pursuant to 38 U.S.C.A. §§ 4321-4327.

The filed complaint states that the VA representative contacted Hopkin to explain to him his responsibilities as an employer under the USERRA and that Clancy was entitled to a portion of his salary and benefits during his employment, as well as paid military leave pursuant to Wyoming Statute § 19-11-108.

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The complaint then alleges that Hopkin was not receptive to the VA representative, but eventually provided Clancy’s prorated salary through the representative’s assistance, “after much resistance.”

Hopkin reportedly required Clancy to pay “almost $5,000” in employee contributions to retirement that accrued during his employment, which was not that case the first time.

In August of 2021, Clancy returned from Afghanistan after another deployment, and was assigned to work at the cemetery by Hopkin, despite a “shortage of operators at the plant.”

This reassignment resulted in in loss of on call pay and overtime that Clancy would have received had he been working as an operator, with Clancy further asserting that he was required to complete three years of training in two months at the cemetery to have his license renewed.

In November of 2021, Clancy was transferred back to his position at the Water Treatment Plant, but alleges that Hopkin treated him significantly worse than other employees, going so far as to not speak directly to him.

The complaint goes on to claim that Clancy was also denied the following promotion opportunities.

In October of 2019, information for a promotion for Water Superintendent was emailed to all the water treatment workers except for him, with the person eventually hired not having “the same administrative experience or seniority” as Clancy.

In February of 2020 an HR job was available that Hopkin allegedly “discouraged Mr. Clancy from applying” for, instead pushing him toward an assistant Water Superintendent position that Clancy later discovered did not exist.

Clancy found this to be in violation of provisions regarding advertising and seniority in the City Managerial Handbook.

Clancy also alleged in the complaint that Hopkin “had some concerns over his deployment,” around April 28, 2021, a few weeks before his termination, and that no clarification was given as to what that meant when asked.

The next alleged incident occurred during the week of May 3rd, 2021, when the Water Treatment Plant was “having problems making potable water,” and Clancy was told by Hopkin that he had to come in to help resolve the issue on his scheduled day off.

At the time he was told he had to come in, Clancy was almost to Spearfish, SD to pick up some firewood, and informed Hopkin he would be back that night and available to work on the weekend.

Hopkin then reportedly told Clancy he had to “be available 24/7 as per his job description,” and then placed him on administrative leave.

Clancy stated in the complaint that according to his job description, he “May be required to work on-call duty and 24-hour standby,” but he was never notified that he was on-call or 24-hour standby when he was going to Spearfish.

Clancy further alleged that in the past he was always given notice when this was to occur, and that on-call schedules were made by the plant employees two months in advance so they could have clear time off for family and other activities.

The filed complaint also maintains that prior to May 7th, 2021, Clancy had never received any discipline or verbal warnings from Hopkin for poor job performance, and that his evaluations were satisfactory, having never been put on notice of any job performance issues for about 15 years.

Clancy later claimed that an “extremely biased investigation performed by Hopkin himself” was conducted that required him to “prove his innocence.”

Clancy was then given the choice to be terminated or to resign for “negligence, insubordination, and dishonesty,” and was ultimately “forced to resign under protest so that he could retain his retirement.”

“Due to the unfair treatment of Mr. Clancy,” the complaint continues, “He and his family have been damaged. He was forced to resign from a paying career that he thoroughly enjoyed and for which he has extensive training. Mr. Clancy has found a job driving trucks for Fremont County, but the pay and benefits are substantially less than his job as an operator.”

Clancy also stated that he does not want to be “reinstated due to the way he has been treated.”

County 10 reached out to both Hopkin and the City of Lander for comment.

Hopkin was unavailable for comment, but Lander Assistant Mayor RaJean Strube Fossen did state that “No comment will be given while an active investigation is going on.”

County 10 will provide updates on the investigation as they become available, which can be found here.

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