The whistleblower fired by Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. filed a lawsuit last week that claims he was terminated for cooperating with state and federal investigations of his employer.
Michael Nolan, OTB’s former chief operating officer, is asking a judge to award him $14.5 million for his treatment over the last two years, and to reinstate his employment, according to the suit.
The filing, submitted to federal court Aug. 12, names CEO Henry Wojtaszek and OTB Board of Directors Chairman Richard Bianchi. It says the pair “swiftly, aggressively, and austerely retaliated against” Nolan for speaking with investigators and testifying before a grand jury.
According to the lawsuit, Nolan was forced to work weekends, wrongfully denied a raise, ostracized from OTB-sponsored public events and meetings, and forced to give up consequential responsibilities, like his roles as the organization’s purchasing officer and Freedom of Information Law officer.
Nolan’s termination on Dec. 18, 2020 came after he’d spent nearly a decade as OTB’s second-in-command, and three years short of his employment benchmark for pension and lifetime health insurance.
“I found out my health insurance was canceled when my wife was at a doctor’s appointment for a broken hand for my 10-year-old daughter,” Nolan told Investigative Post last year.
The experience has caused “great emotional duress” and substantial legal costs, the filing said.
Daniel Oliverio, OTB’s outside legal counsel for the lawsuit, called the allegations “baseless” and “absolutely unsupportable” last year.
Nolan’s cooperation is part of several probes — by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and New York’s Office of the State Comptroller — of OTB, a state-created public benefit corporation owned by 17 city and county governments in Western and Central New York.
Those agencies are reviewing a number of OTB practices previously reported by Investigative Post, including: contract awards; the distribution of promotional tickets to sports and entertainment events; the private use of OTB cell phones and vehicles; and the granting of a rich health insurance to part-time board members.