This article by Wheeler Cowperthwaite originally appeared on July 27 on The Patriot Ledger
DEDHAM – A former MassHealth official from Milton is suing the state and her former bosses for firing her over her comments she made in the Milton Neighbors Facebook group, where she compared some of the state’s policies to Nazi Germany.
Denise Foley, formerly MassHealth’s director of internal and external training and communication, filed the lawsuit last week with the backing of a national conservative nonprofit law firm, the Liberty Justice Center. The firm is representing her for free.
In multiple replies to a Milton Neighbors Facebook post in December 2020, Foley said she was against the state government’s policy of encouraging residents to turn in their neighbors for not complying with the state’s COVID pandemic-related mask mandate.
Those comments were then reported to her superiors at MassHealth, her attorneys said in the lawsuit complaint.
The five-count lawsuit names MassHealth, acting Assistant Secretary Amanda Cassel Kraft, former Assistant Secretary Daniel Tsai and Director of Diversity and Civil Rights Sonia Bryan.
They are accused of violating Foley’s First Amendment right to free speech and her state constitutional right to free speech. Foley is also alleging wrongful termination, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment for not affording her due process and a violation of her state constitutional right to due process.
Kate Reilly, the spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said in an email that her agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Foley is seeking at least $316,000, including medical expenses, lost wages and future medical expenses. She also wants her job back. Because of her firing, she is seeing a doctor because of stress and anxiety, according to the lawsuit.
Liberty Justice Center attorney Jeff Jennings, representing Foley, said she contacted the group and they took her case for free because the firm works to protect the First Amendment.
“Public employees and civil servants have First Amendment rights, and she posted something unrelated to her co-workers or her job and it was her opinion on the issues of the day, of people not turning in each other over masks,” Jennings said.
Jennings said the $316,000 is a rough estimate and could rise as the case continues.
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