One definition of justice, as defined by Webster is: “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.”
Not so in the City of Troy.
The Council is poised to approve a settlement to satisfy a lawsuit brought by Police Benevolent Association President Bob Fitzgerald for $85,000 – with insurance covering $75,000 - without even addressing the merits of the more than 6-year-old case. And this comes after it already spent $140,000 on an attorney, Tom O’Connor, to defend the case.
Basically, the city put Fitzgerald on paid administrative leave for a tiff he had with another officer, Steve Seney, which included threats of violence. Then Mayor Harry Tutunjian understandably took exception and took action against Fitzgerald by putting him on paid administrative leave. The former mayor was included in the suit along with now Police Chief John Tedesco.
Tutunjian and Tedesco claim they did nothing wrong, Mayor Lou Rosamilia, according to reports and a draft press release, said he would have done the same thing as Tutunjian if it transpired under his watch. Up until a month ago, Rosamilia and the city were ready to take the case to court. But, at a special Law Committee meeting, Corporation Counsel Ian Silverman said the city could be on the hook for $250,000 should the city lose at trial. Better to cut our loses, the attorney advised, and be done with it for a measly $10,000.
Be that as it may, what kind of precedent is it going to set? If a Department of Public Works guy gets suspended for having a few beers at lunch, can he sue for mental anguish? If a City Hall employee is suspended for looking at porn at his desk, can he sue for sexual discrimination? If a police officer is suspended for excessive force, can he sue for being issued a nightstick?
Fitzgerald didn't lose any pay over the incident, he was disciplined by his boss. He could have filed a grievance with the Public Employee Relations Board like he has hundreds of times before when he had a beef with the administration but he instead chose to file a lawsuit in federal court.
I don’t know what exactly transpired between Seney and Fitzgerald but at the time I seem to remember there was something to do with residency requirements and how it relates to promotions, threats of machine gun fire and tales of infidelity, conspiracy, personal animosity and revenge as well as other nonsensical, immature accusations.
For that the city has to pay $10,000 – plus six years’ worth of attorney fees.
Part of the deal is the city will not admit any wrongdoing on anyone’s behalf, however I don’t think that matters miuch. Settling is, in and of itself, an admission of guilt and most people won’t notice any language that doesn’t begin with a dollar sign.
Fitzgerald, who said he is retiring by year’s end, said he won’t see a dime of the money. Rather, it will go to the PBA to pay its attorney, Mark Walsh for bringing the lawsuit. I don’t see that as relevant because it’s still taxpayer money going to pay an attorney for a lawsuit brought by a guy who sued the city. In other words, the city is bailing out Fitzgerald’s debt to the union he represents because if the city doesn’t make Walsh whole, who will? Yes, you are right, the members. And something tells me they won’t be happy about that.
And even if the city can get out from under this six-year debacle for relatively small amount of money, there is such a thing as right and wrong and sometimes you can’t put a price on that. It’s a gamble, sure, but one the administration and Council should take because it’s the right thing to do. If it caves and settles because it “costs too much,” what kind of message is it sending the kids.