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New London — The city is denying allegations by city firefighter Al Mayo that they shorted him more than $8,000 in salary payments when he returned to work from a suspension after his arrest.
Norwich attorney Gary A. Cicchiello, in a letter dated April 8 to the city of New London on behalf of Mayo, claims that the city essentially kept the unemployment benefits Mayo collected during a three-month unpaid suspension.
Mayo was suspended in June 2013 following his arrest for his alleged involvement in a fight outside the Polish Club in Montville. He remained out of work for about eight months, until Feb. 12, while his case was pending. Mayo ended up pleading no contest to the misdemeanor charge of breach of peace and received a one-year conditional discharge.
When his case was resolved, Mayo accepted a 45-work day suspension without pay as part of a settlement agreement he signed. The city agreed to reimburse Mayo his missed salary, minus what Mayo was paid in unemployment compensation.
Mayo collected $16,968 in unemployment benefits between June 21, 2013, and Dec. 29, 2013, when the benefits ended.
By Mayo's calculations, the back pay should have totaled $8,700. The check he received was for about $164.
City Attorney Brian Estep said the city, along with subtracting about $1,800 for such things as pension payments, union dues and insurance, claimed the unemployment benefits Mayo received during his three-month suspension.
"As part of the terms of the agreement the city was entitled to take credit for any unemployment benefits paid from the salary to be reimbursed after the suspension ended," Estep said. "The city acted pursuant to terms of the agreement which was signed by firefighter Mayo."
The agreement was signed by Mayo, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, Fire Chief Henry Kydd and fire department Union President Rocco Basilica. Mayo and the union agreed not to grieve terms of the agreement.
Cicchiello, in his letter, claims Mayo should have been able to keep the unemployment benefits he received during the suspension period.
"The City has not cited any provision in his contract which provides that he cannot collect unemployment benefits during a suspension," Cicchiello wrote. "Furthermore the city has not cited to any provision in his contract which provides that the City is entitled to reimbursement for unemployment benefits paid during an unpaid vacation."
Cicchiello has requested the city pay Mayo $8,751.92 in back pay, "or in the alternative pay Mr. Mayo the entire back-pay amount of $19,053.92. Mr. Mayo will then deal with the State of Connecticut Unemployment Department on the issue of reimbursement."
This is not Mayo's first clash with the city. Hired and later fired by the city in 2011 before his graduation from the state fire academy, he claimed race was a factor in his mistreatment by the city and by officials at the academy.
He was rehired in 2012 following a report that concluded Mayo may have been unfairly treated at the academy.
The scuffle at the Montville Police Club, according to Ron Stevens, Mayo's attorney in the criminal case, started after the other man made derogatory comments about Mayo's using race to keep his job in New London.
Mayo said he's looking to put the newest controversy behind him.
"I really hope that this awful situation is corrected soon because unfortunately my family has suffered from this administration's actions, once again," Mayo said in a statement. "I was under the impression that I was going to be made whole with partial back pay but in the end shockingly most of my back pay was withheld from me and that is not right."
Cicchiello has not returned calls seeking comment.