Luigi Amasino (pictured), Branford’s former police canine officer, filed a lawsuit against the town of Branford yesterday, asserting Police Chief Kevin Halloran threatened last December that he either withdraw a grievance against the police department or the chief “would destroy the plaintiff’s career as a law enforcement officer.”
In a four-page civil complaint filed in New Haven Superior Court, John R. Williams, Amasino’s New Haven attorney, says Amasino did not withdraw his grievance, a grievance filed in response to a two- day suspension ordered on Dec. 6 for alleged violations of departmental rules and regulations.
Williams said Amasino challenged the police chief’s disciplinary action by means of a grievance in accordance with his union contract. His decision to do so, he said, was protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Connecticut Constitution. Under state statute, an employer is liable for discipline or discharge of an employee in connection with an employee’s exercise of certain constitutional rights.
In an interview Williams did not disclose the specifics of the alleged work violations, specifically whether they were on-the-job violations involving Amasino or if they were related to the department’s canine, Joker. Amasino had been a member of the Branford Police department for 10 years.
Amasino, 38, came under investigation last summer and fall after Branford police conducted internal investigations into two events, one in which Joker bit a teenage boy and another in which he bit a firefighter with whom he was playing ball. Click here to read about it.
Personnel Issue Goes Public
After Amasino objected to his two-day suspension, the complaint says, Chief Halloran threatened on Dec. 9 that if he did not withdraw his grievance, “he would destroy the plaintiff’s career as a law enforcement officer.”
When Amasino did not withdraw the grievance, the complaint said Chief Halloran “undertook a series of vindictive and discriminatory disciplinary actions against the plaintiff, far in excess of what he would have done to any other officer similarly situated…”
Halloran also informed Amasino that if Amasino did not “immediately resign from the Branford Police Department, he, Chief Halloran, would terminate his employment and cause his POST certification as a law enforcement officer to be revoked,” the complaint says.” Police officers may not serve as police officers without this certification.
Reached yesterday Chief Halloran said he had only learned of the lawsuit earlier in the day. “I am not able to talk about it now,” he said, adding he was awaiting a conversation with an attorney. He observed that if Amasino “wants to bring it to a public forum, that is his decision.”
The complaint goes on to say that Amasino was “forced to submit a letter of resignation on January 6, 2017 effective January 20, 2017.” Apparently Amasino did so without first consulting an attorney.
On Jan. 17, Chief Halloran notified Amasino in writing that his resignation was accepted. The complaint says that Amasino’s “resignation” in fact was a constructive termination of his employment.
Seeking a New Job
The complaint goes on to say that since he left the Branford Police Department he has been unsuccessful in getting hired as a police officer.
Williams wrote that officials have interfered with Amasino’s efforts “to obtain a comparable law enforcement position elsewhere in the State of Connecticut, effectively destroying the plaintiff’s career.” As a result, the complaint says, “Amasino has suffered past, present and future economic losses and emotional distress.”
Chief Halloran would not comment on allegations that police department officials were interfering with Amasino’s efforts to get a new job, but suggested the truth would come out at a later date.
In an interview Williams said, “As you know, the fundamental rules of all labor management law is that similarly situated employees must be given similar discipline if in fact they break a work rule. So to impose a discipline that is disparate compared to those of other officers who have done something comparable is considered not just cause and is considered grievable.”
Williams observed, “There are a lot of reasons to file a grievance. And it is a basic right that all members of bargaining units have.” In his view “you can’t retaliate against police officers when they do what they have a right to do.”
Amasino is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs connected to the events and the subsequent lawsuit. Williams told the Eagle he did not rule out a trial but did not have to make that decision right now.
Joker was sold back to the kennel where the police department purchased him in exchange for a credit. Usually a police dog would remain with his partner. The department plans to train a new officer and a new dog this fall when training classes get underway. “When we get the next dog, we will have a credit (from Joker), Halloran said in an interview.