Court clerk terminated for falsehood in federal lawsuit

Corinne McCarthy, a longtime employee of the Judicial Branch who worked most recently as a deputy court clerk, was terminated on July 3 for knowingly falsifying a statement she gave in a federal discrimination lawsuit brought by one of her subordinates.

McCarthy admitted the falsehood during a June 29 disciplinary hearing, according to a termination letter signed by Joseph D. D’Alesio, executive director for the Judicial Branch’s Court Operations Division. She was escorted from her most recent workplace, in the clerk’s office at the juvenile court in Waterford, on July 3.

McCarthy, of Waterford, was hired as a data terminal operator in November 1993 and worked her way up to deputy clerk. Her annual salary was $76,478.

She said during a phone interview Friday that she is appealing her termination.

According to court documents, McCarthy lied about her supervisor, Deputy Chief Clerk Cara Parkinson’s, knowledge of a “petition of concern” that McCarthy created and circulated in June 2009. She had created the petition after learning that employee Habibah Abdul-Hakeem, who she said was acting erratically and aggressively, was scheduled to return to work in the clerk’s office at the Norwich courthouse following a leave of absence.

Abdul-Hakeem alleged in the federal lawsuit that McCarthy and Parkinson discriminated against her based on her race and created a hostile work environment. McCarthy and Parkinson are white. Abdul-Hakeem is black.

McCarthy, who as a state worker was represented by the attorney general’s office, gave a statement that said Parkinson was unaware of the petition and had no role in its circulation.

McCarthy now claims Parkinson knew about the petition before it was circulated.

“The night before, she and I talked about it (the petition), and she said, ‘You’re in the union and I’m not, so you just do the petition on your own,’’’ McCarthy said Friday.

McCarthy said she didn’t tell the truth because she feared retaliation from Parkinson, her longtime friend and supervisor with whom she’d had a falling out after she took leave and collected workers’ compensation for an elbow injury.

U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton dismissed the lawsuit in January, saying Abdul-Hakeem had failed to establish a case of racial discrimination because she had not provided the court with information on how the supervisors treated others like her.

Abdul-Hakeem has appealed.

McCarthy and Parkinson have been represented by separate lawyers from the state attorney general’s office. McCarthy’s attorneys recently withdrew from the case. She said Friday she has not yet retained an attorney.

Abdul-Hakeem’s lawyer, John R. Williams of New Haven, said the appeal is progressing through the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He said the case is bolstered because McCarthy’s statement about the petition had been cited as support for Judge Arterton’s dismissal of the case.

“She (McCarthy) committed perjury in court,” Williams said.

The attorney general’s office has “egg on their faces,” Williams said, “but presumably they acted in good faith.”

“I just think it makes it very awkward for them to continue to represent Parkinson,” Williams said.

Parkinson, however, said she continues to be represented by the attorney general’s office and that there is no claim against her “for anything at this point.” The attorney general’s office maintains that in circulating the petition, McCarthy acted without Parkinson’s knowledge and permission.

“I maintain representation, and I will maintain representation throughout the appeal,” Parkinson said Friday. “I am not under any investigation whatsoever. My affidavit speaks for itself.”

According to the affidavit, Parkinson emailed Maria Kewer, personnel manager for the Court Operations division, when she learned McCarthy was circulating the petition.

David S. Gage, chief clerk for the New London Judicial District, said he transferred McCarthy to the juvenile courthouse in March and does not intend to fill her position in Norwich.

k.florin@theday.com

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