Norwich assistant animal control officer placed on leave

Norwich — Assistant Animal Control Officer Donna Gremminger, who has filed a civil suit against the city alleging discrimination, has been placed on “non-punitive” paid administrative leave.

She is on leave pending an investigation into “multiple recent complaints” from members of the public and similar internal concerns regarding her work performance, police Chief Patrick Daley announced Friday night.

“This action is not a statement of judgment, but of the need to review these concerns objectively and in full,” Daley wrote in a news release. “Based on this, we will not be commenting further on this personnel matter.”

Daley said the ongoing operation of the police department’s animal control division “will continue uninterrupted during this period.”

Gremminger filed a five-count complaint in state Superior Court in June but the suit was removed to federal court in July at the request of the city.

In her complaint, Gremminger’s attorney, Lorenzo J. Cicchiello of Norwich, said Gremminger was pregnant in 2017, and for several months the city used insecticide sprayers “in and around” her workspace that emitted chemicals allegedly harmful to her reproductive system. Gremminger repeatedly complained to her supervisor, then-Sgt. Josip Peperni, to remove the sprayers, but he allegedly refused.

On July 1, 2017, Gremminger contacted the state Department of Labor Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which found the city in violation of health and safety regulations and assessed penalties. She returned from maternity leave in September 2017 to find the sprayers had been mounted to a wall so they could not be directed away from her work area, her attorney wrote. Her obstetrician instructed her to discontinue breastfeeding.

Gremminger alleged the city retaliated against her by denying her application to transfer to a clerk’s position in City Hall and by reducing her hours to the point where she no longer qualified for benefits, vacation and sick time.

In its response to the complaints in the lawsuit, the city denied most of Gremminger’s allegations. The city's attorney David Monastersky wrote that the city admitted that OSHA found violations but denied that the violations were related to the insecticide sprayers. Monastersky also wrote that one of her claims could not be argued to be retaliation for her CHRO complaint, because the alleged incident occurred 180 days prior to her filing the complaint with the state commission.

c.bessette@theday.com

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