FOX UNDERCOVER (MyFoxBoston.com) -- It was Gary Duncan's dream job, a big promotion to coastal bureau chief for the Massachusetts Environmental Police, where he's worked for more than 30 years.
But instead of celebrating what would probably have been his final job before retiring, Duncan is left trying to understand what happened.
"It hurts. It really does," he said.
His interview for the job in 2011 went well, he said, well enough to earn the recommendation of both his boss, Environmental Police Col. Aaron Gross, as well as an interview panel.
But things went south once it reached the highest levels of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, where the final decision was made.
"What did the Colonel tell you?" FOX Undercover investigative reporter Mike Beaudet asked.
"He said you were my choice and you were picked by the panel. It went upstairs with my signature on it, and whatever happened he doesn't know. They can't get any answers," Duncan said.
"Upstairs" is the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, where a decision was made to promote another candidate, Len Roberts, instead of Duncan.
"Why do you think you didn't get the job?" Beaudet asked him.
"I haven't got any answers definitively, but I believe politics was involved," Duncan replied.
Duncan has good reason to be suspicious.
Unlike Duncan, Roberts is a regular contribution to Democratic politicians, including former Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Murray.
"Does the person that got the job have connections?" Beaudet asked.
"Yes," Duncan replied. "Yes."
Those connections include one to the chief of staff in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Patricia Vantine, who is the sister of former state Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh. Neither Vantine nor Roberts would comment for this report.
Vantine used to work with Roberts' brother in the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.
"Politics plays a part in everyday life, but I never thought in this stage of my career that I would be hurt by the politics and shenanigans like this," Duncan said.
Duncan has a pending age discrimination complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. He's 64, Roberts is 52.
But Duncan says he wishes he could file a complaint alleging political patronage, but the Commission doesn't accept those types of complaints.
FOX Undercover asked the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan whether age discrimination or lack of political connections played a role in passing Duncan over.
"Absolutely not," Sullivan said.
Sullivan called Duncan a valued member of the Environmental Police and promised there will be no retaliation against him for speaking publicly about his complaint. But he pointed out that, when it came time to make the promotion, Roberts was a higher-ranking captain than Duncan, who was a lieutenant.
"It gives the appearance (of a conflict) when the head of the Environmental Police recommends someone and it comes up here and the politically connected guy gets the job," Beaudet asked.
"I understand, you can always make a case. I understand that people that don't get these jobs, it's an emotional process for them. But I can assure you that in this particular case, it's not a political hire, and it was done on its merits," Sullivan replied.
Sullivan also insisted that his chief of staff never talked to him about hiring Roberts.
"Patty Vantine is my chief of staff. She is a great chief of staff. I can't imagine doing this job without her as my chief of staff. She does not have a part of play in the hiring decisions," Sullivan said.
"Was Gary Duncan passed over because he didn't contribute to Democrats like the man who did get the job?" Beaudet asked.
"No," Sullivan said. "Absolutely not. Politics has nothing to do with this promotion whatsoever."
But Gary Duncan, who still works for the Environmental Police, isn't convinced.
"It really has affected me and my family unfortunately. I still enjoy the job, my fight isn't with the department, it's with the politics higher than my office," Duncan said.