A federal jury has concluded that race was a motivating factor in a former Long Island mayor’s decision not to appoint a white officer as police chief.
The Eastern District jury on May 28 awarded Christopher Barrella $1.35 million after he was passed over by then-Village of Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick, who is black. The top cop post went to a Hispanic officer with fewer academic qualifications and lower test scores.
Judge Arthur Spatt (See Profile) presided over Barrella v. Village of Freeport, 12-cv-0348.
Barrella was represented by Amanda Fugazy and Adam Weiss, partners at Ellenoff Grossman & Schole.
“There is nothing per se wrong with” diversifying work staff, Fugazy said in an interview, but added, “it is illegal to make race a motivating factor in hiring and promotion and that’s what [Hardwick] did.”
She noted that Barrella’s academic credentials included a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law and scoring first on the exam for the test. Chief Miguel Bermudez scored third and has a high school diploma, Fugazy said.
Both Barrella, a lieutenant, and Bermudez still work in the police department.
The Village of Freeport was represented by Keith Corbett, a partner at Harris Beach. “We believe this case will be resolved on appeal in favor of” the village, said Corbett, adding there was “no direct evidence that the Village of Freeport discriminated against the plaintiff based on his race.”
Kenneth Novikoff, a partner at Rivkin Radler, and Scott Green, an associate, represented Hardwick.
“Since Mayor Hardwick plans on filing post-trial motions and will appeal, we would prefer not to comment on what is still active litigation,” Novikoff said.