Veteran Groton Town police officer sues town

Groton — A 56-year-old Groton Town police officer has filed a federal lawsuit against the town, claiming not only age and gender discrimination but retaliation by her supervisors, including a demotion, for filing a complaint against them.

Officer Kathleen Doyle, employed by the department since 1985, claims in her suit that she has been the target of "retaliation, harassment and discrimination," ever since she filed a discrimination complaint in 2007 against former Police Chief Kelly Fogg. A settlement with the town led to her promotion to sergeant in 2008.

The lawsuit, dated April 7, names former Lt. Steven Sinagra, now a captain, and Lt. James Bee, who she says singled her out and subjected her to warnings and reprimands for alleged performance issues that Doyle claims in the suit were "misrepresented, exaggerated, and/or minor infractions for which other employees … were not disciplined."

As one example, Doyle claims that while a sergeant, she was not allowed to work as acting shift commander in the absence of a lieutenant. Younger male employees, including those less qualified, were, she claims.

Doyle claims she was subjected to constant monitoring, excessive scrutiny and criticism. Her supervisors "treated her less favorably than similarly situated younger and/or male employees," according to the suit. She claims Bee "behaved in a hostile and intimidating manner … frequently screamed at her," the suit alleges.

Doyle claims Bee required her to seek permission before making an arrest. On one occasion, she says Bee berated and yelled at her for washing a bowl and a spoon that had been left dirty in a sink by another officer.

Doyle claims Bee's promotion to lieutenant was delayed by her 2007 complaint.

Doyle filed a complaint against Bee with the town's human resources department in February 2012. Human Resources, she said, referred the complaint back to the police department for an internal investigation. On April 1, 2012, Chief Michael Crowley, who is now retired, informed her that Deputy Chief Steven Smith found the complaint to be "without merit." At the same meeting, Doyle claims Crowley told her "now we will be investigating you," according to the suit.

Doyle passed the lieutenant's written and oral portions of the exam in May 2012 and was, as a sergeant, therefore eligible for promotion.

During a June 28, 2012, interview with Crowley, however, Doyle claims he asked her "if she was seeking other employment and asked her when she planned to retire," according to the suit. Her answer was she planned to retire as a lieutenant.

Doyle was passed over for the lieutenant's position and in August 2012. Crowley informed her he had concluded an investigation into her deficiencies and proposed to demote her back to officer.

The memorandum, Doyle claims, contained inaccurate information or exaggerations of minor events. In one case, she said the memorandum cited her as insubordinate when she forgot a key card to headquarters. She was also accused of failing to report for duty on two occasions when she was actually late, the suit alleges.

Doyle was demoted from sergeant to officer on Sept. 6, 2012, with a pay cut and five-day suspension without pay.

She subsequently filed complaints with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in November 2012. The complaint was retained by CHRO for a full investigation while she claims she continued to be harassed and received counseling memoranda for alleged performance issues.

On May 7, 2013, Doyle was again issued a written warning for alleged "negative work performance" and "serious recklessness" after her cruiser became stuck in the snow during a blizzard.

Doyle claims the hostile and unfair treatment continues under Bee. She began reporting to him again earlier this year.

The lawsuit states that Doyle was granted a right to sue in federal court from the EEOC earlier this month.

Doyle is seeking an unspecified dollar amount for lost wages, compensatory damages for emotional distress, harm to reputation and attorney's fees. Doyle is represented by New London attorney Magdalena B. Wiktor, who said only that Doyle "looks forward to prosecuting those claims in federal court," she said.

An attorney representing the town was not immediately available for comment.

g.smith@theday.com

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