U.S. Federal Courthouse in Bridgeport, Connecticut (google)
A former Rocky Hill police officer has sued two top police officials and two town leaders, claiming he was harassed and retaliated against due to the belief that he has a mental disability, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the 11-page lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, former officer Italo Miceli claims the alleged abuse began in October 2014 by then-newly appointed Town Manager Guy Sciafe. Miceli, who is also a veteran, was eventually terminated from the department on Nov. 28 after 12 years of service.
The lawsuit alleges Sciafe discriminated against and harassed Miceli with “unwarranted internal investigations by the Police Department; zoning enforcement investigations and inspections; false accusations; fines; and false complaints to the state Department of Transportation and Department of Health.”
The suit states that Robert Lombardo, Miceli’s neighbor, “initiated and pursued a campaign of slander and false complaints, and investigations against plaintiff from the time Sciafe took office.” Lombardo, the complaint states, harassed and intimidated “plaintiff based upon their perception that he suffered from a mental disability.”
Top police personnel were also involved in the alleged harassment, the lawsuit claims, including Chief Michael Custer and Lt. Robert Catania.
“On numerous occasions, up to the date of plaintiff’s termination from employment, Lombardo and Catania conspired to defame and see plaintiff terminated.”
On another occasion, in July 2015, it’s alleged Custer, using false information provided by Lombardo and Catania, “initiated an internal investigation” and ordered a “fitness for duty” examination against Miceli.
Custer suspended Miceli “without cause” and ordered him to undergo psychological counseling in August 2015, according to the complaint. Miceli was suspended again two months later and was said to be a “danger to the public” because he didn’t move his privately owned vehicle from his own property after being ordered to do so.
The alleged harassment and intimidation, the suit maintains, continued up until Miceli was fired. In December 2015, Miceli filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission claiming that the defendants subjected him to a hostile work environment. After the complaints, Miceli was “retaliated against for making” them and “subjected to further harassment,” it is alleged.
The lawsuit seeks, among other things, compensatory and punitive damages from each defendant. Custer and Catania were unavailable for comment Tuesday. Sciafe, also a defendant, couldn’t be reached.
“There has been an ongoing pattern of harassment to myself and my family by Mr. Miceli,” Lombardo told the Connecticut Law Tribune Tuesday of his neighbor for the past 21 years. “If he didn’t lose his job, I would have pursued legal action against him.” Lombardo declined to elaborate on the alleged harassment he and his family have received.
John Mehr, who took over as town manager from Sciafe in early September 2016, is also a defendant. He declined to comment Tuesday.
Miceli is represented by Hartford attorney James S. Brewer. He was not available for comment.