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Black investigator sues NYS finance department over 'toxic' environment – New York Post

A veteran black female fraud investigator is suing the New York State Department of Financial Services alleging she was treated unfairly compared to white male counterparts and called a “bitch” for just doing her job.

Deidre Manns said she endured a toxic work environment at DFS, according to the discrimination complaint filed in Manhattan federal court that names former Superintendent Linda Lacewell, a longtime Cuomo aide known as his “minister of defense,” as one of the defendants, and current Commissioner Adrienne Harris, as defendants.

One dispute centered on another investigator insisting on writing the reports for Mann’s own undercover work, according to the suit filed Thursday.

Manns, who spent 20 years working as an undercover investigator for the city Human Resources Administration before landing a job at DFS in 2016, also reported a fight between two colleagues that she said could have imperiled an undercover case, the filing says.

DFS suspended Manns without pay and sought to fire her, accusing her of conducting unauthorized criminal background searches and doing personal business on company time. She disputed the charges and the issue remains in arbitration.

Joseph Edwards, Manns’ former direct boss in the DFS fraud bureau, defended her record, saying she was the victim of a “toxic work environment.”

Manns worked for the New York State Department of Financial Services, where she allegedly experienced a toxic work environment.
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“Deirdre was an excellent worker. Her work was top notch, impeccable,” Edwards told The Post on Friday.

He said others in the bureau were trying to “find some way to discredit or undermine the work she did.”

Edwards was so impressed with Manns — who’d received a letter of commendation in 2015 for her role in exposing massive Medicaid fraud for HRA — that he pushed for her to succeed him when he retired in 2019.

DFS declined and went after her instead, claimed Edwards, who said he served as a “buffer” to resolve disputes.

He said there was tension between some DFS investigators and supervisors who had previously worked in law enforcement, such as the NYPD.

Linda Lacewell, right, chief of staff to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, leaves a Manhattan Federal courthouse, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, in New York.
Former Superintendent Linda Lacewell was named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
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“The people with law-enforcement backgrounds were treated better. They felt they had to find some way to discredit or undermine her work,” said Edwards, who previously worked for the NYPD himself.

“She is a black woman who knows what she’s doing. Some people didn’t like that fact. What has happened to her is very unfair. It’s just not right.”

In the court papers, Manns claims she was called “stupid” and a “bitch. She alleges she suffered from retaliation and discrimination at DFS based on “race, gender, sex and national origin.” Her suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Two other DFS employees listed as defendants, Frank Orlando and Joseph Medina, declined comment and referred The Post to DFS.

An agency spokesperson responded, “DFS does not comment on personnel matters.”

Lacewell had no immediate comment.

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