Fired last year from his position as the Director of the Staff and Organizational Development for the State Department of Labor, 60-year old Michael Cunningham had long suspected that the state agency was interested in seeing his dismissal after whistleblowing an effort by Gov. George Pataki to recruit more state department members to a prayer breakfast in 2004. During June 2008, an order came down from the Inspector General’s office which had a GPS device secretly placed on Cunningham’s privately-owned BMW. The Inspector General claims that the office had every right to place the device on the car while it was parked in a state-owned parking lot.
The GPS device was being used to track Cunningham’s location during absences. Investigators routinely downloaded data from the device and replaced it with a fresh model each week to track the car’s movements through July 8. The GPS device even tracked all of Cunningham’s movements during a 4-day family vacation to Massachusetts towards the end of June. In March 2009, Cunningham received a notice of discipline from the Department of Labor stating 13 occasions where Cunningham claimed to be at a work-related event, but was instead at home.
As the wheels of New York government continued to turn at a snail’s pace, the hearing for the misconduct charges didn’t occur until January 2010. By the time of the hearing, Cunningham had learned that the data collected from the GPS device during that single month in 2008 constituted the majority of evidence against him. He attempted to have the data thrown out after questioning the legality of the GPS tracker, but was fired in August 2010. During December 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit against the state on Cunningham’s behalf requesting the removal of the GPS information and a new hearing for Cunningham. The case is currently being heard by the Appellate Division Third Judicial Department and both sides are awaiting a decision from the appeals court.