Officer sues Stratford over suspension
The Connecticut Post
STRATFORD — A police officer whose March arrests of Town Council Minority Leader Alvin O'Neal and a 15-year-old girl sparked accusations of police brutality and racism plans to sue the Town Council, Mayor James R. Miron and Police Chief Michael Imbro.
Officer David Gugliotti on Monday filed a notice of intent to sue with the Town Clerk's Office over being placed on a 60-day administrative leave, saying it violated both the police union's collective-bargaining agreement and his civil rights.
After arresting O'Neal, D-2, and 15-year-old Titasheen Mitchell, both black, during a fight that erupted between two others girls March 21 in the South End, Gugliotti, who is white, was placed on paid "administrative leave" the following day by the mayor.
Both O'Neal and Titasheen's mother, Marcia Mitchell-Davis, claimed Gugliotti used excessive force and foul language making the arrests.
After a 60-day internal affairs investigation by the Police Department, it was determined there was "insubstantial evidence and conflicting accounts by eyewitnesses" to find wrongdoing, and Gugliotti was reinstated by the mayor.
But according to Gugliotti's lawyers, from the Quinn Law Firm in Milford, they will seek unspecified damages against the town for "failing to give Corporal Gugliotti hearings to determine just cause or any cause to continue his discipline within 10 days," in accordance with the police union contract.
The intent to sue also maintains the mayor tried to influence the outcome against Gugliotti.
"During the internal affairs investigation, the mayor negligently attempted to influence the outcome of the investigations in favor of Mr. O'Neal, including the holding of a 'private' meeting with the two police officers expected to be questioned regarding their observations" of the altercations and arrests.
"Despite repeated requests, the mayor failed to communicate in any way with Gugliotti and prevented him and his legal counsel from participating in the 'private' meetings,' " the letter states.
The town also allowed Gugliotti to be "publicly ridiculed by improperly releasing certain information purportedly from the personnel files" of the officer, involving previous disciplinary actions against him by the Police Department, the officer's lawyers say.
Because of the discipline, the lawsuit notice contends, "Gugliotti and [his wife] Karen Gugliotti have suffered headaches, insomnia, stress-related vertigo, weight gain, anxiety, nervousness, professional and family embarrassment, marital stress, damaged reputations," and damage to their "integrity and careers."
Miron denied violating Gugliotti's civil rights or the union contract.
"I've always acted in accordance with the law and in good faith," the mayor said Monday. "Officer Gugliotti certainly has a right to file a lawsuit, and it will be decided in court."
Imbro and O'Neal could not be reached for comment.
Mitchell-Davis, however, said despite the internal affairs findings "that doesn't mean Gugliotti didn't do anything wrong. They just said there was not enough evidence, which I still believe is wrong.
"But right now I'm more concerned with my daughter because she's still facing charges of interfering with a police officer," Mitchell-Davis said. She said an offer of probation was recently made by Juvenile Court prosecutors and the girl's family is considering that.
However, she added, "Titasheen didn't do anything wrong."
Meanwhile, both Titasheen and O'Neal were interviewed by the FBI, which has also interviewed Stratford police officers, including Gugliotti.
FBI spokesman Ron Barndollar has confirmed witnesses have been interviewed by his agency, including Titasheen, but has declined further comment.
The arrests and subsequent fallout sparked an anti-racism rally in July that drew nearly 400 people to Town Hall. Meanwhile, the event provoked threats from racist groups who distributed literature and defaced dollar bills in the South End urging people to "kill niggers."