Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Word gets out when there is infighting

MIDDLETOWN -- James Milardo, the fiery former chief of the city's 911 center and a political confidant of ex-Mayor Domenique Thornton, is suing the city, contending it fired him illegally and ignored his complaints about misconduct by city police officers over the years.

His federal lawsuit names Thornton and Police Chief J. Edward Brymer as defendants. The chief was served with a copy of the lawsuit on Tuesday.Milardo, 45, asserts that police officers began harassing him when he told city officials five years ago that certain officers were arranging sexual interludes with female dispatchers through the dispatch center, and had covered up information related to off-duty arrests of at least two city officers.

He doesn't identify any officers. The claims in the lawsuit are similar to comments he made in an interview with The Courant after he was arrested in September 2004 for allegedly screaming profanities at local cable TV talk-show hosts who regularly lampooned him on their show.

He pleaded guilty in January to creating a public disturbance and paid a $50 fine, though he contends the incident never happened.Milardo said in 2004: "I know of information about [off-duty officers] drawing weapons on domestic partners, about [department] computer violations, about driving under the influence of alcohol, about cops who shouldn't be cops anymore.

"Thornton said at the time that she believed Milardo had copies of dispatch tapes that he had received through an earlier freedom of information request "They may give him some knowledge that he would use for a personal lawsuit. I'm not privy to what that is," Thornton told The Courant in 2004.

Brymer declined comment on Wednesday.

Thornton, now a public-policy analyst for the Mental Health Association of Connecticut, said Wednesday that she had not been served with the lawsuit and had no comment.City Attorney Trina Soliecki did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday.

Brymer and Thornton would be represented by Soliecki's office or by outside lawyers paid for by the city.

Milardo contends that the alleged police harassment, his arrest, and a decision by the city not to let him accrue sick and vacation time while he was on personal leave, prevented him from returning to his job and was tantamount to the city retaliating against him and firing him without due process.

The city's position has been that Milardo resigned.In previous interviews and in his lawsuit, he said his ordeal with the city has caused him health problems, including high blood pressure and emotional distress, and cut his career short.

His lawsuit says he's seeking money damages, but not how much.

In late 2004, after Thornton replaced Milardo with an interim 911 center director, Milardo demanded a $250,000 settlement and lifelong health and pension benefits - a package potentially worth several million dollars. Milardo and the city tried to make a deal in January, but the discussions went nowhere.

The 911 center has been run on a permanent basis since June 2005 by Wayne Bartolotta, former chief of the South Fire District. The center handles police, fire, and emergency-medical calls in Middletown and Portland.Milardo now lives in south Florida.

He and his wife, Christine, have set up a day spa in Pembroke Pines and run a rental property business.He moved from Middletown in July after selling his Old Farms East home for $625,000 to NBA star Ray Allen.Thornton appointed Milardo in 1999 to the posts of 911 center director and head of emergency management, jobs that collectively paid him about $90,000 a year.

His brother, Michael Milardo, was also hired as deputy director of the 911 center. The Milardo brothers were regular donors to Thornton's campaigns, and James Milardo in particular was never shy about expressing in public his loyalty to Thornton. That all changed with his arrest in 2004 for allegedly hurling insults at his critics.

As police investigated that case, Milardo filed a sweeping freedom of information request aimed at city hall. He sought records of alleged domestic disputes involving officers, and of all internal Middletown police investigations for the past five years.

He also sought the personnel files of a dozen officers, and records of alleged misuse of the National Crime Information Computer, which gives police officers and dispatchers access to criminal records and warrants.At least 77 sworn officers and civilian personnel received notification that Milardo was seeking information about them.Milardo has also been the target of lawsuits.In May 2002, a federal lawsuit against the city and Milardo brought by five current and former dispatchers was settled for $400,000.

The above found here on the web.


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