Lawsuit: Fired Shelton Cops Accuse Mayor, Police Chief Of Defamation, Violating Rights

SHELTON — The six police officers terminated last year have filed a suit against the city, charging Mayor Mark Lauretti and Police Chief Shawn Sequeira with, among other things, defamation and violating their Constitutional rights.

The suit, which named Lauretti and Sequeira, was filed June 9 in U.S. District Court by Lt. Dave Moore and officers John Napoleone, Michael McClain, Dan Loris, Caroline Moretti and Roger Falcone.

The six allege that Lauretti and Sequeira violated their Constitutional rights of free speech and assembly, defamed them, and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

Three officers — Moore, Napoleone and McClain — were fired after an internal affairs investigation related to a sexual assault investigation. The three other officers were fired for allegedly staging photos of officers changing clothes in the department parking lot, related to the department’s use of portable toilets for officers.

The suit states the termination letters contained false and inflammatory statements “written with malicious intent” about the officers, and that Lauretti and Sequeira then reiterated these charges to various media outlets.

“The mayor and the chief made very public defamatory statements about these officers which is unheard of in our police departments across Connecticut,” said attorney Michelle Holmes, who is representing the six plaintiffs in the suit.

As a result of the pair’s actions, the suit states the officers suffered lost career and promotional opportunities, emotional injury and loss of income. Loris has since been hired as a police officer in Fairfield.

“The officers are seeking lost wages — only one (Loris) of them has been hired by another police department — the rest cannot find employment in their chosen field,” Holmes said. “They are seeking damages for harm to their reputation and emotional distress. We are also requesting that a jury award punitive damages against Lauretti and Sequeira.”

All six officers have filed grievances over their terminations. Those cases remain pending.

Sequeira told Hearst Connecticut Media the suit is “a desperate attempt to deflect attention and responsibility from themselves.”

“The lawsuit is not based on any facts,” Sequeira said. “The facts and circumstances support those disciplined and terminated were based on just cause. We continue to hold our officers accountable as the majority do their job. Police officers are held to a specific standard supported by the police accountability bill.”

Lauretti said he was “not surprised” by the suit.

“We have been talking about the firings and the reasons for the firings since this all started,” Lauretti told Hearst Connecticut Media, adding that the circumstances surrounding the six terminations will be before the state labor board and the courts.

“All the facts will come out,” he said.

Sequeira said an internal affairs investigation led to the termination of then-union president Napoleone, McClain and then-union vice president Moore for dereliction of duty.

Sequeira said Moore’s initial internal affairs investigation began in August 2019 and was completed in November 2020. The chief said the report, in which Moore cleared Napoleone and McClain, was found to be incomplete, leading to the additional internal affairs investigation.

The chief said Napoleone and McClain were fired for not properly investigating a complaint at the apartment of since-fired Bridgeport police officer Steven Figueroa. Moore was fired, according to Sequeira, for attempting to “cover up” Napoleone and McClain’s “mishandling” of the incident.

The victim in that incident this week filed suit against the city.

The terminations of Loris, Moretti and Falcone resulted from a separate internal affairs investigation that began months prior in connection with photos of officers apparently changing their clothes in the department parking lot that appeared on the Support the Shelton Police Union Facebook page in July 2020.

The suit states the officers’ actions were to illustrate to the community the impact of closing all police headquarters bathrooms to officers in April 2020.

“The defendants then arranged for two porta-potties to be delivered to the Shelton Police Department parking lot. There were no hand-washing stations or any place to change your clothes other than in the parking lot,” the suit states.

“Although union representatives wanted the issue to be bargained under the contract, the defendants did not acknowledge any requests nor was the unsanitary, humiliating, and unsafe conditions ultimately ever part of a formal union labor dispute,” the suit states.

The three officers, according to Sequeira, were terminated on allegations of staging the photos and lying about them.

“The officers were all fired within one month from the time that the photos were posted on Facebook and the public rally took place which is very strong evidence that their discharge was because of their speech,” Holmes said.

Holmes is referring to a public rally organized to support Shelton’s police officers held July 2, 2020.

“The mayor and the chief targeted these officers because they spoke out about the police department and then went even farther by publishing defamatory statements to the press with total disregard of the truth,” Holmes added.”


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