Thursday, January 08, 2009

State troopers file lawsuit against attorney general

For The Herald Press

NEW HAVEN [Connecticut] — State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has become the target of a federal lawsuit filed by eight state troopers, The New York Times reported Friday.

The troopers say Blumenthal’s double role — defending government workers accused of breaking the law as well as looking into wrongdoing — leaves him unable to adequately protect whistleblowers.

The suit, which also names three others working under Blumenthal in the Attorney General’s Office, was filed Dec. 22 in the Richard C. Lee U.S. District Court in New Haven, resulting from 2005 accusations of problems within the Connecticut State Police.

There were charges of mismanagement resulting from favoritism as well as charges of sexual assault, drunken driving, domestic violence and larceny. A 168-page report released in December 2006 by the Internal Affairs section of the state police found “consistent disregard for official policies, reinforced by a consistent failure to discipline employees who deliberately and willfully fail to adhere to them.”

There were 70 specific calls for reform, and many troopers wound up leaving the force.

Caught up in the turmoil were state troopers who cooperated with investigations and, as registered whistleblowers, asked protection from Blumenthal’s office.

Eight troopers have filed against Blumenthal, the Times reported. This is a second try at a lawsuit for one, according to The Connecticut Law Tribune.

Andrew Matthews was a sergeant in Internal Affairs in 2005 when he asked for protection from Blumenthal’s office. His lawsuit said Blumenthal failed to respond in a timely fashion, thus contributing to the retaliation, but the U.S. District Court rejected the claim in June.

In addition to Matthews, the plaintiffs in the current lawsuit are identified as Lt. Benjamin Pagoni, Master Sgt. Theresa Freeman, Sgt. Stephen Sampson and troopers Patrick Carozza, Karen Nixon, Theodore Driscoll and John Butkevicius.

According to the lawsuit, an investigator told the troopers confidential information about them had been shared with senior members of the state police, the paper said. According to the lawsuit, he said “there was no effective separation between the units in the office of the attorney general’s office responsible for protecting whistleblowers and for defending senior managers retaliating against whistleblowers.”

Norm Pattis, a lawyer representing the troopers, told the Times that whistleblower cases should be handled by another agency.

Blumenthal responded to the Times that he shared the whistleblowers’ frustration and had requested legislation improving the situation.

“The lawsuit cannot accomplish legislative change, and the lawsuit is factually and legally baseless,” he said. “We have a strong firewall to prevent any unethical flow of information.”

Messages left with a representative for Blumenthal were not returned Saturday.

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