Cops & City Settle “Ricci 2” Case

Melissa Bailey PhotoThe city officially settled a lawsuit brought by five black police officers, agreeing to shell out $242,000 to the cops and their lawyer and to promote all the officers to sergeant.

The settlement was made official Friday. Click here to read it.

“It’s everything we were looking for,” said John Williams, the plaintiffs’ attorney. “We’re delighted.”

“After the Court denied the City’s motion for summary judgment, it became in the best interests of all to resolve this longstanding state court dispute over the 2009 Sergeants exam amicably rather than through further litigation,” said Nicole D. Chomiak of Nuzzo and Roberts, who represented the city in the case.

Williams represented officers Bruce Bonner, Milton Jackson, Rahque Tennant, Craig Alston, and Shafiq Abdussabur. The officers sued after the civil service commission certified a promotions list for only one year, because no Latinos scored highly enough on a 2009 promotions exam to make sergeant.

“This is what I call ‘Ricci Two,’” Williams said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court case New Haven lost after a mostly-white group of 20 firefighters sued over a promotions exam. “This was, in my view, the Ricci case with different ethnic backgrounds but otherwise the same case.” 

In the text of the settlement, the city continues to deny the allegations of the plaintiffs’ complaint.

The city agreed to pay the five cops back pay as follows: $24,000 to Alston, $24,000 to Tennant, $43,000 to Abdussabur, $43,000 to Jackson, $58,000 to Bonner. Williams will receive $50,000 in attorney’s fees.

The department will promote Bonner to sergeant by May 31. He plans to retire on June 1.

The other four officers will be promoted by Dec. 11.

“It’s very good for the city,” Williams said. “It puts a very unfortunate incident behind us all.”

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posted by: Noteworthy on May 16, 2014  7:17pm

Who else wants to get in on the action? Are we done yet?

posted by: Ozzie on May 17, 2014  8:22am

Only in New Haven. Thats what the City gets when they continually manipulate promotional exams. It’s been going on for years. All those people in the Civil Service office should be investigated.

posted by: fk on May 17, 2014  9:38am

What is on this test anyway?  Is it a law test?
I suspect that the guys coming right out of the academy would test higher than these guys anyway since this information should be fresh in their minds.  These tests probably don’t indicate how good of a cop anybody is.

posted by: Razzie on May 17, 2014  12:59pm

Hopefully this puts a wrap on the DeStefano era manipulation of civil service exam results for political purposes. This has truly been a very costly period for New Haven taxpayers, and stressful for the police and fire departments whose members serve us faithfully every day. I hope we can now move forward and get the job done. Congrats to the new Sergeants!

posted by: FacChec on May 17, 2014  2:50pm

Well now, what’s another 242K, plus the untold amount to be paid to the city’s outside lawyers for settling this case when they could have done so two years ago and just settled for the promotions to Sergeant.

Just add this 242k to the growing debt pile which is currently north of $9M.

The city is still paying off the Ricci case and the taxpayers are still picking up that annual bond debt of $2M/year, for the next 4 years. But only if, there is not new lost cases, although history is not on our side.

The responsible boards of police and fire commissioners should be removed, if not already, and be replaced with professional analytical audit minded persons and not just political affiliated citizens appointed by the mayor, as is now the case.

Hold your wallets more of the same is coming, particularly from city employees, of all people.

This is easy pickings, they ain’t done yet. After all, no one’s watching anyway.

posted by: robn on May 18, 2014  10:33pm


Need I remind you that it was the “reverend” Boise Kimber, serving as the chair of the Board of Fire Commissioners in 2002, who suggested that new recruits wouldn’t be hired because they have “too many vowels on their name.” Yes he was DeStefanos pick, but the words came out of his mouth and nobody else’s.

posted by: Razzie on May 19, 2014  9:29am


I do acknowledge that Rev. Kimber, DeStefano’s hand-picked Chair of the Bd. of Fire Commissioners, was widely quoted in the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in the Ricci case. That case was good reading for the particulars of how the DeStefano administration carried out their illegal discriminatory employment schemes. But I also need to mention that with this settlement of claims against the City’s Police Department, the New Haven Civil Service commission can now claim the very questionable reputation of having engaged in illegal racial discrimination against Blacks and Whites during the same period of time! That’s got to be quite an accomplishment (equal employment discriminator)—that would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that it involves over a million dollars of taxpayer money that we are still trying to figure out how to pay.

Rev. Kimber was only one symptom of a very pernicious disease that infected the entire prior Administration.

posted by: David Backeberg on May 19, 2014  10:47am

I have the same question now I had back during the Ricci case.

What exactly is on a Sergeant’s test, and what’s on a firefighter promotional test?

Are these things that New Haven makes up? Are there universal bodies of questions for tests national firefighting training bodies, or national associations of police chiefs?

Main point of my question is what are we actually measuring when the candidates take those tests?

Cynically, I would agree that if you are getting promoted, being able to do paperwork well is a decent thing to measure, as you do more paperwork the higher you get.

But if I need the police or firefighters to come to my house in a hurry and help me, I care way more about their ability to run upstairs quickly than how well they can analyze and answer a multiple choice question.

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on May 19, 2014  11:45am

The $242K is NOT the FULL amount of the settlement. Bonner will retire as a Seargant even though he never acted in that capacity. So, his pension will probably be at least $20K a year more and seeing as though he is a relatively young man (for retirement) it is conceivable that he will receive the higher pension for 25 years. So the cost in his case alone is really an additional $500K to taxpayers. But, most people will only find out the true cost when the city becomes bankrupt.

posted by: RACISMISALIVEANDWELL on May 19, 2014  7:12pm

Congratulations to these Sergeants for standing strong in the face of adversity.  It’s extremely cruel and disgusting what these men had to endure within the past few years. 

Under the Destefano administration there careers were stagnated due to the perils of politics.  The incompetence and discriminatory practices used by the Police Commissioners under this administration is unbelievable. 

As the court noted, “employment discrimination is often accomplished by discreet manipulations and hidden under a veil of self-declared innocence.”  Getting passed over for promotion because someone doesn’t like the racial make up of a list is cruel, evil and racist. 

Ozzie and Razzie, you are both correct in your assessment of the civil service office and its manipulation of exams for political purposes.  This is no secret! This indeed occurred under Destefano’s watch, hopefully, Harp and her administration will get it right.

posted by: pd093 on May 19, 2014  10:55pm

When I was by-passed for promotion on the Sgt. exam with the New Haven Police for those with lower scores, the New Haven Register quoted Police Commission Chairman Richard Epstein, when he was asked why they by-passed white candidates, “We want the African-American Community to know that we take race into consideration when we promote”. What did I do wrong?
  I congratulate the Officers on “Ricci 2” as well as the firefighters on “Ricci 1”. The City needs to stop the madness. Just give a fair test and go down the list, unless there is just cause to by-pass an individual.
  Actually, when I took the last test, they would round the scores. They do not do that now. “Hey Dad, why didn’t you make Sgt?” It wasn’t my time.