The public relations director with Summit County Developmental Disabilities has filed a federal lawsuit against the agency, claiming he was demoted and discriminated against because of his military service.

Kevin McGee, who has worked at the agency for more than 10 years, is a second lieutenant in the Ohio Army National Guard. He was deployed Jan. 9 for three months and is serving on active duty in South Carolina.

The lawsuit says the county agency has violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act by demoting him from overseeing specialty business and failing last year to offer him a two-year contract like those given to other nonmilitary workers. Instead, a one-year deal was offered.

In a statement issued this week, the board denied the allegations.

“The case is in the very early stages and the board has no further comment at this time apart from stating that it will vigorously defend the action,” the board said. “A key component of Summit DD’s mission is to break down discriminatory barriers to ensure that individuals are not discriminated against and have equal access to their communities and opportunities for employment. The board does no less for its employees.”

The lawsuit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Akron, also says Superintendent Thomas Armstrong didn’t like McGee being away on military duty in past years and threatened to “fire him first” before McGee could leave for a military career.

The agency also had refused to pay him while he is deployed as required by his contract, the suit says. That issue has been settled through the court.

McGee earns $98,841 a year, has five weeks of vacation and has a separate $600-a-month car allowance, according to his contract.

“This lawsuit is a fight for fairness in the workplace for citizen soldiers,” McGee said in a prepared statement. “It’s a shame that all this controversy has happened right after my leadership of the very successful levy campaign last November. I’m a little worried that Armstrong or others might try to retaliate against me by trying to berate my performance; however, my accomplishments in the past 10 years speak for themselves.”

The suit is seeking more than $75,000 in compensatory damages and other damages.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.