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Former New London police secretary intends to sue city

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New London — A former police secretary has filed a complaint with the state and intends to sue the city for giving The Day a document with information about her medical condition in November.

In a May 15 letter, Cynthia Olivero, now employed by the city-operated Senior Citizens Center, notified city officials of the impending civil action. She accused them of invading her privacy.

At The Day’s request, the city released a June 2015 complaint Olivero filed with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, or CHRO. The lengthy complaint alleges that police maliciously failed to accommodate her multiple sclerosis when they moved her from the third to the second floor as part of a staff reorganization.

Olivero included specifics about her issues with incontinence in the complaint.

"I'd rather not go into detail about the invasion of privacy because of the tremendous embarrassment and absolute humiliation it caused me," Olivero said by phone.

In her letter, she said the release of the information caused her "emotional distress” and “was not of any legitimate public interest.”

Olivero also filed a new complaint with CHRO May 18, saying the city released her original complaint to retaliate against her for filing it.

In her letter, Olivero said the city should have redacted the parts about her medical condition. Under state law, however, any person can view full complaints, final dispositions and settlement agreements once CHRO cases have closed.

In other words, Olivero made the information public by putting it into her complaint.

However, Olivero said by phone that the ruling in Perkins v. the Freedom of Information Commission means the city could have omitted the information if it wanted. The ruling declares "personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy" are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act's disclosure requirements.

She said the city should have left in enough information to suggest she needed to be close to a bathroom without including the other details.

"They can choose to leave it in or take it out," Olivero said. "My contention is they reviewed this and chose to leave it in even though the law permitted them to take it out and I had voiced an objection prior to them releasing it."

She began working at the police department in 2008. In 2015, an internal affairs investigation found Olivero had violated several department regulations, including general inefficiency, neglect of duty, untruthfulness, failure to follow Freedom of Information Act procedures and use of department files for a purpose other than official business.

The investigation began when police found files in Olivero's desk that they said shouldn't have been there.

Olivero, who wasn't disciplined after the investigation, filed two claims as it was ongoing.

One was the CHRO complaint about the city's failure to accommodate her condition. City officials denied Olivero's claims but agreed to a $54,000 settlement to avoid further legal costs. The city spent about $15,500 on legal advice.

Olivero said she retained a lawyer for that case on May 1, 2015 — 12 days before police began investigating her for the misplaced files.

The other claim was for worker’s compensation, which Olivero filed in May 2015. She said she fell on the then-dilapidated stairs at the rear of the police department, causing severe lower back pain.

Risk Manager Paul Gills said the city has spent about $203,150 on related medical, disability, legal and general expenses and will spend more because Olivero’s medical treatment is ongoing.

Officials transferred Olivero from the police department to the Senior Citizens Center in October at her request. She said she loved her job at the police department but couldn't handle the hostile environment any longer.

"It was heartbreaking," she said. "I mourned the loss of what could have been."

Gills said she has been on leave for a couple months — she had a second surgery this year related to complications from her fall — but is due back within the next few weeks.

l.boyle@theday.com

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