Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister at the Towd Point Dock in North Sea last summer.
By Kathryn G. Menu; Michael Heller photo
Following his dismissal earlier this month, Kevin McAllister this week announced he would fight his ouster as head of the Peconic Baykeeper, calling for a formal hearing into allegations of wrongdoing and threatening to file a wrongful termination suit against the non-profit entity if his terms are not met.
Last Thursday, Mr. McAllister, a Quogue resident, confirmed he had been fired earlier this month as the Peconic Baykeeper. According to Mr. McAllister, he was fired by the non-profit’s board chairman, Brendan J. McCurdy, based on allegations of sexual harassment involving the organization’s development and communications director, Alexandra Millar, as well as reports that he abused alcohol while on the clock.
“I was blind-sided by these allegations,” said Mr. McAllister last Thursday, denying that he abused alcohol while at work, adding that while he and Ms. Millar had what he called a “flirtatious” relationship over a year ago, it was consensual and never consummated. For the last 18 months, Mr. McAllister said the relationship has been strictly professional.
“I never even kissed her,” said Mr. McAllister, adding that there is not a no-fraternization policy at the Baykeeper, where he has served as president for 16 years. Mr. McAllister’s attorney, Barbara Matthews of St. James, has requested Mr. McAllister be reinstated to his position as the Peconic Baykeeper president pending a formal investigation into the allegations.
Requests to speak with Ms. Millar, who is currently listed as one of two employees on the Peconic Baykeeper’s website, peconicbaykeeper.org, were not met as of press time. When the story of Mr. McAllister’s dismissal first broke on The Press News Group’s website, 27east.com, Ms. Millar was quoted as the organization’s spokesperson, although this was prior to the release that allegations of an inappropriate relationship may have been at play.
The Peconic Baykeeper organization was founded in 1997 as the 19th baykeeper organization under the Waterkeeper Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to environmental protection.
“Peconic Baykeeper is the only independent not-for-profit advocate solely dedicated to the protection and improvement of the aquatic ecosystems of the Peconic and South Shore estuaries of Long Island,” the website states.
“It is unfortunate that Kevin McAllister and Ms. Matthews have chosen to use the press as their mouthpiece,” the organization said in a statement issued Wednesday. “The Peconic Baykeeper, Inc. reiterates that it does not discuss personnel issues in public. The organization is actively engaged in a search for our next President.
“We continue our fight with NY State DEC on the renewal of 1300 pollution elimination discharge permits and the NY State Parks Dept. on their ongoing use of outlawed septic systems,” the statement continued. “The development pressure on our watersheds appears to be headed for an all out assault. Our organization will continue to lead the counter attack as your clean water advocate. Drinkable, swimmable, fishable waters for all remains our focus.”
Mr. McAllister said that after being fired by Mr. McCurdy in person on March 4, without being provided any documentation to support the allegations and without the presence of other members of the Peconic Baykeeper board, an emergency meeting of the board was held two days later and, on March 7, the board officially took action to remove McAllister as president of the Baykeeper organization. He alleges that Mr. McCurdy gave him the option to resign after that board meeting was held.
“I decided I would not resign,” said Mr. McAllister. “It was unlawful termination. They moved me out of this organization like I am a criminal. We have sent the board notification of our intent to fight this and the legal grounds for this unlawful dismissal.”
According to Mr. McAllister and his attorney, Ms. Matthews, they have also sought recourse through the Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization that controls the Baykeeper license.
“First of all, he hasn’t had any clear allegations presented to him,” said Ms. Matthews. “He has had innuendo. What we are asking for is to have him reinstated pending a proper investigation. That is due process.”
Ms. Matthews said in firing Mr. McAllister in this manner and for these allegations, the Baykeeper has violated two anti-discrimination statutes.
“We are not being overly litigious,” said Ms. Matthews. “We are not asking anyone to come to a definitive conclusion, but we are asking for due process.”
If Mr. McAllister is not reinstated pending an investigation, Ms. Matthews said her client will either bring a lawsuit against the Peconic Baykeeper or will fire their case with the New York State Human Rights division.
“We don’t want to go that far,” said Ms. Matthews. “This is only if they don’t do the right thing. And if a formal investigation is launched, we are confident we can clear Mr. McAllister’s name.”