Crime

Former employee accuses KC real estate firm of placing camera under her desk

A former employee of Kansas City development firm Legacy Development claims she discovered a secretive recording device in her office. She sued the company, claiming she was retaliated against when she brought it up.
A former employee of Kansas City development firm Legacy Development claims she discovered a secretive recording device in her office. She sued the company, claiming she was retaliated against when she brought it up. Bigstock

This story has been updated with comment from Dan Lowe, sent to The Star subsequent to publication after repeated requests for comment prior to publication.

A former employee of Kansas City commercial development firm Legacy Development claims in a lawsuit that she discovered a spy camera installed underneath her desk and was fired when she brought it up with management.

Mary Caffrey, who worked at Legacy Development from 2012 to 2017 as legal director, filed suit in Jackson County Circuit Court alleging that Legacy Development discriminated and retaliated against her by firing her not long after she called police about the spy camera.

Also named as defendants are Legacy Development managing partner Dan Lowe, a well-known real estate developer who has had a hand in several significant retail development projects around the Kansas City area, and Sue Gallatin, the firm’s chief financial officer.

Caffrey’s attorney, Rik Siro, declined to comment. Gallatin and Lowe (initially) did not respond to multiple requests for comment as far back as five days ago. Both individual defendants have been served with copies of the lawsuit, according to court records.

Caffrey alleges that on July 12, 2017, she found a video camera, similar in type to spy cameras available for purchase online, underneath her office desk and pointed in her direction.

The lawsuit says Lowe and Gallatin knew Caffrey used her office to undress and change into workout clothes. Legacy Development has an on-site workout facility but no changing room.

Upon discovering the camera, Caffrey called the Kansas City Police Department. An officer arrived at Legacy Development that same day and recovered the camera, took pictures of the scene and placed them in a sex crimes folder, according to a police report obtained by The Star.

Subsequent to the publication of this story, Lowe, through a spokesman, denied involvement in placing a camera on Caffrey’s desk and said police found no evidence of a crime.

“No one here is responsible for placing a camera in Mary’s office,” Legacy Development spokesman Dave Claflin said in an email. “The first anyone heard of the existence of this camera is when Mary called the police.”

Later, Kansas City Police set aside the investigation after finding that no evidence could be extracted from the camera.

Claflin also said Caffrey is the sister of Lowe’s wife, but the couple is going through a divorce.

“Not mentioned in Mary’s lawsuit is likely the key motivation for her claim: The fact that Mary is Peggy Lowe’s sister and that Dan and Peggy are currently engaged in a lengthy and acrimonious divorce,” Claflin said. “Dan had hoped to keep this as the family matter that it is.”

One day after finding the camera, Caffrey texted Gallatin about the discovery and the police call, and also let Gallatin know that Caffrey would be working from home because “she felt unsafe at the office,” according to the lawsuit.

On July 17, 2017, Caffrey emailed Gallatin and Lowe to let them know she was concerned and disappointed to have not been contacted by Legacy Development’s human resources about the incident and that she was no longer able to access company emails, according to the lawsuit.

Gallatin wrote back that Caffrey should deal directly with Lowe going forward instead of communicating with human resources. Lowe, according to the lawsuit, also wrote that he found it “offensive” that Caffrey suggested he didn’t care about the incident.

Caffrey was terminated later that day. The lawsuit said Lowe had informed Caffrey that the firm was downsizing, although Caffrey claims she was the only person to lose her job and that younger, male employees kept their jobs and assumed some of her duties afterward.

Claflin called Caffrey’s claim “nonsense.”

“Over the past two years, Legacy has significantly downsized, reducing force by over 50 percent,” Claflin said. “Mary was obviously not the only employee to lose her job.”

The Missouri Commission on Human Rights earlier this year issued Caffrey her notice of right to sue the defendants. She seeks an unspecified damage amount for lost wages, benefits, emotional distress and damage to her reputation, among other things.

Lowe began his real estate career in Kansas City at Cohen Esrey and in 1995 co-founded RED Development. While at RED Development, Lowe had a hand in developing The Legends in Kansas City, Kan., near the Kansas Speedway.

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