Attorney of Marco Island police records clerk issues ultimatum before filing lawsuit
The legal counsel of Marco Island's police records clerk has issued an ultimatum to the city to resolve the claims alleged in her federal complaint or it will face a lawsuit in less than 30 days.
In an Aug. 19 letter to City Manager Mike McNees, obtained through a public records request, attorney Neil Snyder warned that a lawsuit would be coming forward if the city did not find both a monetary and non-monetary resolution within 30 days to address the alleged hostile workplace environment perpetuated by former Police Chief Al Schettino.
The letter alleges the city negligently retained and failed to supervise Schettino, who was accused of gender discrimination, libel, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
More:Marco records clerk still intends to sue city after EEOC is unable to substantiate claims
A June 17 right-to-sue letter issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began the 90-day clock for Heather Comparini to file suit in U.S. District Court. That occurred after an investigator was unable to substantiate claims that she was subjected to intimidation, discrimination and harassment based upon gender at the police department.
The EEOC decision did not exonerate Schettino or the department but rather did not find enough evidence to move the complaint through the agency's processes.
Comparini filed the EEOC complaint in December in which she outlined a history of discriminatory action taken against her by Schettino and the city’s failures to properly investigate her claims.
At the heart of the complaint was an incident in February 2018 where confidential information was leaked out of the department regarding the investigation into battery allegations against then-City Manager Lee Niblock.
Comparini was scapegoated by Schettino as the person who disseminated information because she was seen reading a confidential document that was erroneously sent to a public printer.
Public records showed Schettino asked the city’s labor attorney to draft termination paperwork based upon his unfounded belief that Comparini sent a message that eventually made its way to Councilor Larry Honig about a battery complaint against Niblock.
Not only did Comparini deny she sent the text message but she found a text message from then-Sgt. Neil Giansanti, which originated the information. Giansanti was at the printer — Comparini claims — when the confidential document was printed. Another city employee signed an affidavit corroborating Comparini's description of events.
More:EEOC complaint details Marco police discrimination, information leaks, potential perjury
Despite her innocence, Comparini wrote that actions taken by Schettino led to physical and mental ailments such as extreme stress, trouble sleeping, nightmares and dramatic weight loss.
This included deactivating her key card and having other employees train for her position.
Comparini also accused Schettino of being "highly resistant to having women under his command," citing the hiring of young men with little or no experience over a longtime female officer.
With the clock ticking on the ability to file a lawsuit in federal court, Snyder has also struggled to obtain records from the city that pertain to the case.
Less than two weeks ago, Snyder submitted a letter to City Clerk Laura Litzan asking for better responses to a public records request he filed after not receiving any information for dozens of items.
This included information and documents related to the Niblock leak investigation.
Despite the incident occurring more than 18 months ago, the city has kept the investigation open, preventing the release and disclosure of such records.
Capt. Dave Baer confirmed Monday that the investigation was still open and that he was still reviewing materials related to it.
Among Snyder's requests that were not fulfilled were communications between Schettino and his wife.
During the public comment segment of a city council meeting earlier this year, Schettino's wife made reference to information she claimed was in the document Comparini was accused of leaking from and the investigation. Her comments were made in an attempt to refute the allegations made in the EEOC complaint.
How she would have known that information is unknown. Based on the open investigation, it would have been confidential.