One lawsuit, then another against the city

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A lawsuit by a former Suffolk police lieutenant who sued to get her job back has been dismissed, but a similar case brought by a Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue captain has taken its place.

In the first lawsuit filed May 13, Katrina Everett asked for a declaratory judgment that would allow her to return to her former job. She alleged the city had ignored a grievance panel’s finding and the human resources director allegedly ordered the panel to change its finding.

According to the grievance panel’s finding, two of the three members 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.

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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 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 chairman subsequently changed his vote, meaning Everett’s termination was upheld.

In the end, the court found it did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter of the lawsuit. The order dismissing it was entered Oct. 21.

In the second lawsuit, John Rizzatti, who was a fire captain with the city for 18 years, contends the city also ordered his grievance panel to overturn its decision to reinstate him without back pay.

When the panel did so, deciding to reinstate him with full back pay, the city decided to adopt the grievance panel’s initial decision instead — “which was the very decision that the city rejected and remanded,” the lawsuit states.

According to documents filed with the lawsuit, Rizzatti wore his uniform to a custody hearing in the Suffolk courthouse because he was going to work directly after the hearing. When a deputy asked him whether he was there for personal or business matters, he allegedly replied, “Business.”

He was charged with dishonesty, which brought about his termination. However, the panel unanimously found he had not been dishonest but accused him of violating the courthouse’s then-unwritten policy against cellphones in the building. Because he was never charged for that, the city ordered another look at the findings, which led to the reversed decision.

A document in the court file says he returned to work on Aug. 12, and the city voluntarily agreed on Aug. 15 to abide by the panel’s decision. However, the case is still ongoing.