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Former police lieutenant sues city

Published 9:10pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A former Suffolk police lieutenant has sued the city to get her job back after the city allegedly ignored a grievance panel’s finding and the human resources director allegedly ordered the panel to change its finding.

In the lawsuit filed May 13, Katrina Everett is asking for a declaratory judgment that will allow her to return to her former job.

According to the grievance panel’s finding filed with the lawsuit, two of the three members of the panel found she allegedly assumed a supervisory role in an incident after having consumed alcohol and later gave misleading information about the incident. All three found she allegedly “inappropriately involved herself in the conduct of an investigation” and attempted to make an agreement with subordinate officers that they would not disclose an action she had taken, according to the finding.

The panel initially found Everett should be reinstated. As punishment, she would not have received nearly a year’s worth of back pay and would have been demoted to the rank of sergeant, according to the finding.

However, the chairman of the grievance panel, Oscar Blayton, later received a letter from Nancy Olivo, director of the city’s Human Resources Department. Olivo, the filing states, wrote that the panel had not conformed to law and had exceeded the scope of its authority.

The lawsuit, in which Olivo is also named as a defendant, claims Olivo “ordered” an amended verdict.

Blayton subsequently changed his vote for the amended finding, meaning Everett’s termination was upheld.

Retired Suffolk Police Sgt. Stephen Smith, whom Everett had selected for the panel, said in a document filed with the lawsuit that Blayton had attempted to persuade him to change his vote, but he refused.

The third member of the panel, selected by the city, was Deputy Fire Chief Brian Spicer.

Grievance panels are composed of two impartial city employees — one chosen by the city manager and one by the grievant — and an administrative hearing officer appointed by the executive secretary of the state Supreme Court.

The city has filed a motion to dismiss, claiming the Suffolk Circuit Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, that the lawsuit did not meet time requirements and that the defendant has “no right to judicial review” on the charges.

In a response, the plaintiff’s lawyer wrote that there is no time bar on the lawsuit. It also states Suffolk city code lists dishonesty only as grounds for discipline, “not necessarily only termination.”

“There is no zero tolerance policy for the alleged offenses which caused the initial termination,” the motion stated.

This isn’t the first time the city has faced a lawsuit after an employee was dissatisfied with the grievance process.

In 2010, four firefighters filed suit to challenge the city ordinance that applies to the grievance procedure after they were terminated. The lawsuit was later dropped by the plaintiffs.

Everett’s attorney, Mike Imprevento, also represented those plaintiffs.

“Suffolk refuses to give any deference or finality to the panel’s decision and has a long history of this behavior with other such proceedings,” he wrote in the Everett suit.

City Chief of Staff Debbie George said the city does not comment on pending litigation.

No initial court date has been set.

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