Marco records clerk still intends to sue city after EEOC is unable to substantiate claims
An attorney for the Marco Island police records clerk who filed a complaint against the city has indicated a lawsuit will be forthcoming after the commission could not substantiate claims of discrimination, harassment and intimidation based upon gender.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigator Debbie Slater issued a dismissal and notice of rights letter regarding Heather Comparini’s complaint on June 17, starting the 90-day clock for her legal representatives to file suit on her behalf in U.S. District Court.
The dismissal does not exonerate the city or former Police Chief Al Schettino but rather indicates that investigator did not find enough evidence to move the complaint forward through the EEOC and potentially resolve it through conciliation.
“Based upon the investigation, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes,” the dismissal and notice of rights states. “This does not certify that that respondent is in compliance with statutes. No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.”
Comparini filed a complaint with EEOC-Miami District in December which outlined a history of discriminatory action taken against her by Schettino and the city’s failures to properly investigate her claims.
Even if the EEOC had issued a letter of determination, attorney Neil Snyder said the intention was always to obtain a letter giving Comparini the go-ahead to file her lawsuit.
Among Comparini’s allegations were Schettino’s attempts to scapegoat her for a leak of information pertaining to an investigation in 2018 into former City Manager Lee Niblock, who later was charged and pleaded no contest to battery.
Comparini was accused of reading a confidential document that was sent to a public printer and then dispersing some of the information contained in it.
Public records showed Schettino asked the city’s labor attorney to draw up termination paperwork and accusing Comparini of sending a message to that eventually made its way to Councilor Larry Honig about a battery complaint against Niblock.
In the complaint, Comparini wrote that Schettino claimed he had proof but never produced anything that would implicate her.
During a Feb. 16, 2018, meeting attended by Schettino, members of command staff and HR manager Leslie Sanford, Comparini noted Schettino took an accusatory tone before slamming his fists on the table and yelling at her.
Furthermore, Comparini found proof that the same text message that eventually was forwarded to Honig came from then-Sgt. Neil Giansanti, who was at the printer when the document was sent to it.
The city also never performed an investigation into the claims against Schettino or determined how the police investigation of Comparini led to her being falsely accused.
Despite being innocent, Comparini wrote that male officers that were in violation of city policy related to the incident faced no discipline.
This included Sgt. Mark Haueter, who printed to the confidential document to unsecured location, the investigation concluded. Code enforcement employee Jim Deatherage signed an affidavit corroborating Comparini’s version of events. Former Sgt. Mike Vogel also questioned the disparate treatment when he emailed the City Council months later about Schettino.
Although Comparini had no part in leaking the information, she claimed that Schettino still took action against her, leading 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."
She cited a longtime female officer being looked over during a recent hiring period in favor of men with little to no experience, as an example.
In April, Comparini’s case took an a strange turn when Schettino’s wife mentioned the discrimination complaint during the public comment portion of a City Council meeting in which some members of the public were rallying to save his job. The orchestrated support, which ultimately was fruitless, came months after Schettino announced his retirement because of several embarrassing incidents and questionable management decisions.
In Carol Schettino’s comments, she purported to know specific information about the document that Comparini was accused of leaking information from and the location of Giansanti when the text message was sent as well as what attendees at the Feb. 16 meeting thought.
During the April 15 City Council meeting, Carol Schettino purported to know specific details about confidential documents or proceedings. Submitted
The information Schettino shared would have been confidential because of the pending litigation as well as the leak investigation still classified as open.
The Naples Daily News brought that to the Marco Island Police Department’s attention the next day and received the following response from Capt. Dave Baer on April 16: “Regarding Mrs. Schettino, I am not aware of what she knows regarding any law enforcement topic nor how she became aware of any general or specific information. As she is not a member of the agency, it is not my place as agency PIO (public information officer), to ask her these questions. I am advised the investigation you asked about is still open/pending.”
Snyder previously told the Naples Daily News that Schettino’s use of a public forum would also seemingly remove her ability to claim spousal privilege if and when the lawsuit goes to trial.