Marco Island police records clerk files discrimination suit against city
During the April 15 City Council meeting, Carol Schettino purported to know specific details about confidential documents or proceedings. Submitted
One month after issuing an ultimatum, Marco Island's police records clerk has filed a discrimination suit against the city after both sides failed to come to terms.
Heather Comparini's lawsuitclaims she was subject to discrimination, harassment and intimidation based on gender after then-Police Chief Al Schettino falsely accused her of leaking confidential information related to a battery complaint against former City Manager Lee Niblock.
Comparini also accused the city of failing to properly investigate her claims and being negligent in the hiring, supervision and retention of Schettino.
Last year, Comparini filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the city, making the same allegations. An EEOC investigator did not find enough evidence to substantiate the claims but did issue a right-to-sue letter in June which granted Comparini 90 days to file a suit in federal court.
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At the heart of the complaint was an incident in February 2018 where confidential information was leaked out of the department via text message about a complaint made against Niblock. He was later charged and pleaded no contest to one count of misdemeanor battery.
Schettino accused Comparini of disseminated the information, which eventually made its way to City Councilor Larry Honig, because she was seen reading a confidential document that was erroneously sent to a public printer before the text message was sent.
Emails obtained by the Naples Daily News through a public records request showed Schettino requested the city's labor attorney draw up termination paperwork before police administration confronted Comparini about the incident.
In her complaint, Comparini wrote Schettino allegedly made claims of having proof that she was the leak during a meeting she had with police administration and Human Resources Manager Leslie Sanford.
“Upon hearing my response, Schettino slammed his fist on the table and aggressively accused me of having found the report in the printer/copier tray, not on the counter nearby, insinuating that I purposely removed it from the printer so as to read it," Comparini wrote. “ … Schettino continued the interrogation by aggressively demanding that I check my phone and inform him whether there was such a text on it, to which I responded that there was not. Schettino then yelled, ‘Are you sure about that answer, because when you get up from that chair, you are done!’”
After Comparini denied she sent the text message, she traced the text message with confidential information back to then-Sgt. Neil Giansanti. 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.
Despite proclaiming her innocence and presenting evidence that appeared to exonerate her, the city's investigation into the incident has languished for more than 18 months.
During this period, Comparini said 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.
The open-nature of the leak investigation has also stymied Comparini's attorney, Neil Snyder, from gaining access to records tied to the incident.
This included records between Schettino and his wife, who referenced the complaint and the leak investigation during the public comment portion of the April 15 City Council meeting.
Carol Schettino made detailed comments about where certain information was in the document as well as the location of Giansanti when the text messages were received.
She also denied Comparini's description of her husband's actions that occurred during a closed-door meeting police administration and Sanford had with Comparini.
Her comments were made in an attempt to refute the allegations made in the EEOC complaint, but it raised questions as to how she would know specific information about the document and leak investigation, given its open status.