A federal judge has granted a New Canaan firefighter’s request to extend a window to reopen and restore his lawsuit claiming that municipal officials for years failed to address abuse by a superior in the department.
Filed in April against the town, the suit seeks damages on behalf of a 41-year-old white male hired as a full-time firefighter in 2006, according to a nine-count complaint. It claims that a captain in the New Canaan Fire Department over the course of nearly one dozen years made overtly racist and homomisic comments to the firefighter, while singling him out through criticisms, quashing his bids for promotion and hampering his ability to earn wages through overtime.
The town moved to dismiss parts of the lawsuit in June. After the two sides held settlement conferences in August, they reached a tentative agreement. A settlement conference was set for Nov. 16, court documents show.
Yet on Nov. 17, Shelton-based attorney Michael Lynch, representing the plaintiff, said in a motion that “despite their best efforts,” the parties “require additional time to complete the items needed to resolve this matter.”
“Despite the parties’ good-faith efforts to comply with all the prerequisites and conditions of their anticipated resolution of this case, they have been unable to satisfy all conditions, leaving the case currently unresolved yet progressing toward resolution at the present time,” Lynch said in the motion. “The essence of the delay is that to achieve full and final resolution of the matter, as intended by the parties, the plaintiff requires the participation and input of independent third parties over whom the plaintiff has no direct control. The plaintiff has done his best to engage the necessary third parties in this process and obtain the required information from them, communicating with them on multiple occasions and outlining the roles of such third parties in the resolution process, but he has been unable to secure their timely participation and input as needed to comply with the terms of the resolution.”
U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa L. Bryant granted the motion Nov. 17, extending the time to re-open or dismiss the case to Feb. 24.
Town human resources officials confirmed recently that both the captain at the center of the lawsuit, and the firefighter who brought the complaint, remain employed in the New Canaan Fire Department. The Fire Commission during a special meeting Nov. 18 voted 3-0 in favor of a request for the lateral hire of a firefighter, and if that offer is declined, to interview candidates on the current eligibility list. The Board of Selectmen is scheduled Tuesday to approve a $12,250 contract for a “Fire Department Job Assessment” with a company called Resource Management Associates “to conduct a job-related assessment,” according to the selectmen’s meeting agenda.
According to the firefighter’s lawsuit, the captain nicknamed him ‘Toby’ or ‘Kunta Kinte,’ referring to the African slave from the movie “Roots,” and called him ‘Kunta Kinte’ or ‘Toby’ in the workplace on multiple occasions in the presence of others. He wrote the words ‘I love [racial slur in the plural]’ in large letters on the passenger side of the firefighter’s vehicle while it was parked in a Fire Department lot, according to the complaint, and the plaintiff drove it around town not knowing what was written there. In another instance, while the firefighter attended a fundraiser at the firehouse with his young minor son, the captain approached them and said that ‘your son has a [expletive] sucking face just like his father’ and grabbed the Plaintiff’s minor son’s hand and said to the Plaintiff’s minor son: ‘I know you like penis,’ ” the complaint said. The captain “repeatedly mocked and insulted the Plaintiff, calling the Plaintiff ‘stupid,’ ‘retarded,’ ‘lazy,’ ‘[expletive] sucker,’ ‘incompetent,’ and ‘the department clown.’ [The captain] has also told the Plaintiff ‘I hope your kids are [homomisic slur in the plural],’ ” the complaint said.