Settlement Reached on Police Hostile Work Environment Case

PoliceSwearingIn3

Captain Pamela Gustovich (far right) with Left to right: Ericka E. Garcia, Kaitlin M. Ciarleglio, and Greenwich Police Sergeant Debra Vesciglio at the swearing in ceremony for Officers Garcia and Ciarleglio, May 18, 2015

The Greenwich Board of Selectmen unanimously voted on Thursday, July 21, 2016, to resolve a variety of complaints and allegations brought by Greenwich Police Captain Pamela Gustovich.

The Board voted 3-0-0 to pay Captain Gustovich a lump sum payment of $143,000 to cover salary and legal fees, as well as to purchase an annuity of no more than $135,000 that would equal the amount of retirement payments she would have received if she would have remained in the employ of the Town.

The Board’s vote follows a unanimous vote by the Claims Committee of the Representative Town Meeting to approve this settlement.

As part of a three-step process, as outlined in the Town Charter, the settlement will now be presented to the Board of Estimate and Taxation for approval.

The office of the First Selectman provided the following background on the complaints and allegations made by Captain Gustovich:

Introduction

Since May 2013, the Town of Greenwich and the Greenwich Police Department have been involved in a variety of complaints, charges brought by Captain Pamela Gustovich. The overall impact of these charges has had a debilitating effect not only on Greenwich Police, but also on all those who have had to contend with the aftermath.

Internal Complaint and Investigation

On May 4, 2013, Captain Pamela Gustovich of the Greenwich Police Dept filed a complaint of hostile work environment, sexual harassment and discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation, with the Town Human Resources Dept. The catalyst for the complaint was the decision to transfer Captain Gustovich from head of the Patrol Division to head of the Operations Division.

Specifically, Captain Gustovich contended that she had been the victim of a hostile work environment.

Captain Gustovich filed a complaint with the Commission of Human Rights and Opportunities.

On August 27, 2014, Captain Gustovich filed her initial compliant against the Town. She asserted causes of action under Title VII and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act respectively, alleging that she was subjected to discrimination and hostile work environment on the basis of her gender and sexual orientation, and further alleging that she was retaliated against when she complained of such conduct.

The general allegations of her complaint may be summarized as follows:

• Since Captain Gustovich was promoted to Captain of the Patrol Division on January 24, 2012, subordinate officers disobeyed her commands and subjected her to verbal harassment and vulgar conduct as part of a discriminatory campaign to remove her from that position due to her gender and sexual orientation.

• Her reassignment from Patrol Captain to Operations Captain resulted in her supervising fewer officers and with fewer job responsibilities. While this reassignment did not result in a diminution in either rank or pay, the Captain viewed it as a reduction in her role and authority.

• Captain Gustovich received unwarranted negative ratings on her performance evaluations and substandard raises when compared to other male captains.

• Captain Mark Kordick’s behavior toward Captain Gustovich on a number of occasions was deliberately harassing and threatening and put her in fear for her safety.

police day barbecue

Captain Mark Kordick worked the grill at the Public Safety Complex on Police Day, May, 2015. Credit: Leslie yager

It is the Town’s contention that:

• Captain Gustovich’s reassignment was the direct result of the toxic work environment that she herself created with her co-workers, prior to her promotion to Captain, and that grew progressively worse during her brief tenure as Patrol Captain.

• While the Captain did receive negative ratings in her performance evaluations and consequently lower raises, these ratings were in no way based on her gender or sexual orientation.

• While Captain Kordick has not always been a model of decorum, a number of the instances of his behavior cited in the complaint were either not true or presented inaccurately and out of context.

It should be noted, moreover, that to date Captain Gustovich’s allegations remain just that— allegations.

There has been no venue in which she has been required to testify under oath or to provide proof of her charges nor has there been opportunity for the Town to challenge them or provide information that would either disprove them or put them in question.

The Town’s counsels have opined that the cost of trying such a case, due to the complexity and number of witnesses involved, could be excessive. While they contend that the Town has a strong case in regard to some of Captain Gustovich’s charges, they are not clear whether they could be successful in disposing of them all. Moreover, given the nature of some of the charges, airing them in public, even if they were determined to be unfounded, could seriously hurt not just the GPD but the Town of Greenwich as well.

The tentative settlement that was reached with Captain Gustovich is based upon the premise that she no longer wants to continue her employment with the Town and that it is in the GPD’s and Town’s best interests for her not to continue. Primarily, the settlement insures that the Captain sustains no loss in benefits by retiring prior to her personally planned retirement date several years in the future. The purchase of an annuity by the Town would provide an annual payment that would make up that difference. In addition, the Captain would receive a lump sum payment slightly higher than her annual salary that would be applied toward her legal fees.

It is the recommendation of Town management, that this settlement be approved. This recommendation is not made lightly. Rather it is made after serious deliberation and debate. In a three-step process, as outlined by the Town Charter, the settlement was approved unanimously by the Representative Town Meeting Claims Committee and the Board of Selectmen, and will now be voted upon by the Board of Estimate and Taxation. Given the original demands of Captain Gustovich, the settlement is reasonable, especially in light of legal and court costs and whatever she might be awarded should she prevail. In no way does the recommendation of this settlement represent an attempt to place all of the blame for the situation on Captain Gustovich or to rid the Town of issues without the self reflection and subsequent action required so that the Town does not find itself in a similar situation again.

With that end in mind, the Police Commissioner, First Selectman Peter J. Tesei, and the Police Chief James Heavey, plan to secure the services of a consultant to conduct an independent organizational assessment of the department.

As with any organization, such periodic reviews are beneficial and provide a basis to grow and strengthen the work performed daily by the dedicated men and women who comprise the Greenwich Police Department. The assessment would include a survey of all GPD employees; interviews with a sizable random sample; and the opportunity for interview self-referral.

Further courses of action would be determined based upon the results of the assessment.

  • John B.

    Will Taxpayer be footing the Bill on this? Or will it be paid out of the Silver Shield Police union funds?

  • I am troubled by the lack of acknowledgement of the sexist and harassing behavior of the officers in this case. Where was the leadership that should have stopped this from occurring? Why is the behavior of Mark Kordick not condemned? “Not always a model of decorum”? Really? It’s sickening and no doubt will occur again because of the good old boys in the department and town.

  • Frank

    Hahaha! Oh, John B. you’re funny!

  • John B.

    Response to Franks” Hahaha ” Sad but true WE the taxpayers are paying for this Settlement. Taxpayers Wallets Matter.

  • Allison Vera

    The settlement is likely much less than the price tag just for defending the case. And, if the ruling were against the town, the award would likely be much more.

    This case is unsettling on so many levels. As a taxpayer, I am glad it was settled. But the little reported in the press didn’t make sense. Someone makes it to Captain and gets intimidated by a tampon being left on their keyboard? Really? But more seriously, the lateral transfer might have been viewed as a demotion, but it happens in the private sector all the time if the fit is not right. Some of the officers named were surprising, and now there is no chance to hear more about the accusations against them and their possible veracity.

    I also wonder how it might have been a different story under different leadership.

  • frank

    I hear you John and I agree with you. These types of fiscal issues plus the out-of-control spending by the town, will eventually lead to a mass exodus sooner than later.

  • John B.

    It is absolutely absurd this day and age that this activity went on at GPD . If it was in the private sector it certainly would not have been so hush hush.
    Greenwich Police are Civil servants who work for the Greenwich Taxpayers, they are not above the law!