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Miceli v. Mehr

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 4, 2019

ITALO ANTHONY MICELI, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN MEHR et al., Defendant.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Italo Anthony Miceli (“Plaintiff”) has sued the Town of Rocky Hill (“Rocky Hill”), Town Manager John Mehr, former Town Manager Guy Scaife, the Chief of Police of the Rocky Hill Police Department, Michael D. Custer, and Lieutenant Robert Catania, also of the Rocky Hill Police Department, in their individual and official capacities, and Robert Lombardo, a resident of Rocky Hill. Compl., ECF No. 1 (Jan. 6, 2017).

         Mr. Miceli alleges that Rocky Hill and the named public officials (collectively “Town Defendants”) (1) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (“ADA”); (2) retaliated against him in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12203; (3) retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment; (4) violated Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(a) (“CFEPA”); and (5) intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Id. ¶¶ 37-57. The ADA and CFEPA claims, Counts One and Four, are brought against the Town only. Mem. in Opp. to Town Defs. Mot. (“Pl.'s Opp. to Town Defs.”), ECF No. 139 at 8 (May 22, 2019). As to Mr. Lombardo, a private citizen, Mr. Miceli claims (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as (6) defamation and (7) tortious interference. Compl. ¶¶ 53-66.

         Mr. Lombardo has moved for summary judgment as to all claims against him, as have the Town Defendants, excluding Robert Catania, who was dismissed from the case. Mot. for Summary Judgment (“Lombardo Mot.”), ECF No. 134 (Apr. 16, 2019); Mot. for Summary Judgment (“Town Defs. Mot.”), ECF No. 135 (Apr. 19, 2019); see also Stipulation of Dismissal, ECF No. 133 (Apr. 15, 2019).

         For the following reasons, the Town Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED with respect to the ADA discrimination claim, the ADA retaliation claim, and the First Amendment retaliation claim.

         The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims against the Town Defendants, and similarly declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claims against Mr. Lombardo.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         Mr. Miceli's claims arise out of his employment as a police officer with the Town of Rocky Hill, a position he held for twelve years[1] until his termination on November 29, 2016. Plaintiff's Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement of Facts in Opp. to Town Defs. Mot. (“Pl.'s SMF - Town Defs.”), ECF No. 139-1 ¶¶ 1-2 (May 22, 2019).

         John Mehr is the current Town Manager of the Town of Rocky Hill. Compl. ¶ 6. From October 2014 until August 30, 2016, Guy Scaife served as Rocky Hill's Town Manager. Id. ¶ 5; see also Ex. 1: Affidavit of Italo Miceli (“Miceli Affidavit”), ECF No. 139-3 ¶ 12 (May 22, 2019). Michael D. Custer is the Chief of Police of Rocky Hill. Compl. ¶ 7. Robert Catania is a police lieutenant of Rocky Hill. Id. ¶ 8. Robert Lombardo is a neighbor of Mr. Miceli, and a resident of Rocky Hill. Id. ¶ 9; Plaintiff's Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement of Facts in Opp. to Lombardo Mot. (“Pl.'s SMF - Lombardo”), ECF No. 138-1 ¶ 1(May 8, 2019).

         Mr. Miceli alleges that in his eleven years of employment before Mr. Scaife's tenure as Town Manager, “he never received any complaints of misconduct towards the public.” Miceli Affidavit ¶ 15. The claims in this lawsuit are organized around several incidents, as detailed more specifically below.

         The Humvee Purchase

         In August 2011, after the Town Council authorized an auction for various surplus equipment, Mr. Miceli purchased a military-style Humvee and tractor truck for $100. Pl.'s SMF - Town Defs. ¶¶ 11-12.

         In March 2015, the U.S. Attorney's Office received a complaint from the Town of Rocky Hill about Mr. Miceli's purchase, and forwarded it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). Pl.'s SMF - Town Defs. ¶ 15. The FBI then investigated whether there was an unauthorized sale of the Humvee and tractor. Id. ¶ 16.

         On or about May 12, 2015, two FBI agents interviewed Mr. Miceli regarding his purchase of the Humvee. Id. ¶ 17. Special Agent Ron Offutt took notes during this interview, and the notes were used in his report. Id. ¶ 18-19. After learning of the auction allegedly by a newspaper advertisement, Mr. Miceli claims to have delivered his bid to the relevant town employee, Glenn Parent. Ex. I: Deposition of Ron W. Offutt (“Offutt Depo.”), ECF No. 135-11 at 17:23-20:13 (Nov. 26, 2018); see also Miceli Affidavit ¶ 10. Mr. Miceli “stated [to Agent Offutt] that a friend of his put up half the money and paid $50 toward the total $100” for the Humvee and tractor. Offutt Depo. at 21:4-19.

         Mr. Miceli further alleges that when Chief Custer spoke with him about the Humvee, he stated “Listen . . . Scaife is after you. . . . He's after both of us, but right now he's got his sights set on you.” Ex. 2: Deposition of Italo Miceli (“Miceli Depo.”), ECF No. 138-4 at 157:2-16 (Sept. 22, 2017). He alleges that this conversation occurred in the Chief's office, before he sent a letter to the Office of the Chief State's Attorney. Id. at 157:17-19.

         Letter to Chief State's Attorney

         On June 19, 2015, Mr. Miceli sent a letter to the Office of the Chief State's Attorney, in which he claimed, inter alia, that he purchased the Humvee from Rocky Hill through Rocky Hill's silent auction. Pl.'s SMF - Town Defs. ¶ 25; see also Ex. J: Miceli's Letter to State Wide Prosecution (the “OCSA Letter”), ECF No. 135-12 (June 19, 2015).

         In the letter, Mr. Miceli began by describing his issues with Mr. Lombardo, and alleges Mr. Lombardo filed numerous complaints with Rocky Hill's Police Department and Planning and Zoning - all of which were allegedly unfounded. OCSA Letter at 1. Mr. Miceli also details other wrongs allegedly committed by Rocky Hill officials, specifically the then-Town Manager Scaife, who he alleges collaborated with Mr. Lombardo to harass him in looking for “any type of violations with [his] house and property.” Id.; see also Id. at 4 (“I was happily living here [in Rocky Hill] until this new Town Manager Guy Scaife and Robert Lombardo started harassing and bullying me.”).

         Along with many of the claims raised in this case, Mr. Miceli's letter relates the following complaints: issues with Rocky Hill planning and zoning, stating he did not have a certificate of occupancy for part of his house; fines for municipal recreational vehicles and blight; numerous house and property inspections and threats of fines; the Town forcing him to break down his compost; forcing him to move his military Humvee; Mr. Lombardo's property not getting immediately fined, despite allegedly intruding more into State property; and Mr. Lombardo's allegedly unlicensed plumbing business. See OCSA Letter 1-4. Mr. Miceli emphasizes that the “quality of [his] life is suffering greatly due to the harassment and bullying and receiving from . . . Guy Scaife . . . and Robert Lombardo.” Id. at 3.

         Mr. Miceli alleges that Chief Custer, Mr. Scaife, and Lt. Catania were on notice about this letter before Chief Custer assigned Lt. Catania to investigate claims of misconduct regarding Mr. Miceli. See Ex. 6: Deposition of Robert Catania (“Catania Depo.”), ECF No. 134-2 at 136:6-138:11 (Nov. 5, 2018) (noting that he notified Interim Town Manager Scaife about the OCSA Letter, per Chief Custer's instructions, when he became aware the letter existed, but not recalling when that date was).

         Incidents with Lombardo

         The relationship between Mr. Miceli and Mr. Lombardo allegedly deteriorated more than a decade ago due to an incident involving their then-minor daughters. Pl.'s SMF - Lombardo ¶¶ 2-3; see also Miceli Depo. at 101:12-102:25.

         Mr. Miceli alleges that from October 2014 through the filing of the Complaint, Mr. Lombardo “allegedly initiated and pursued a complaint of slander and false complaints and investigations against” Mr. Miceli, Pl.'s SMF - Lombardo ¶ 20 (citing Compl. ¶ 20), and that these ongoing disputes were used by the Defendants “to harass and intimidate the Plaintiff based upon the Defendants' perception that the Plaintiff suffered from mental disability.” Id. ¶ 21 (citing Compl. ¶ 21). Additionally, Mr. Miceli alleges Mr. Lombardo complained about part of his property, which led to numerous visits in 2014-2015 from zoning officer Frank Kelly, who declared his property as “blight.” Id. ¶¶ 5-6. Furthermore, Mr. Miceli alleges that “[w]hen Kelly investigated he told me that he told [then-Interim Town Manager] Scaife that Lombardo's complaint was not valid and that it was not blight, but [then-Interim Town Manager] Scaife ordered him to cite me for a violation.” Miceli Affidavit ¶ 16.

         Mr. Miceli also alleges that Lt. Catania was related to Mr. Lombardo's wife, Diane, which Mr. Lombardo denies. Pl.'s SMF - Lombardo ¶¶ 16-17; see also Catania Depo. at 143:8-22 (noting there is no familial relation between him and the Lombardos, but explaining that he is friends with Pete Mirabelli, who is the husband of Diane's sister Lisa). Further, Mr. Miceli alleges that Mr. Lombardo and Lt. Catania “conspired to defame and attempt[ed] to terminate” his employment. Pl.'s SMF - Lombardo ¶ 22.

         In the spring of 2015, Mr. Miceli alleges that Mr. Lombardo “falsely reported” to the police and Lt. Catania that Mr. Miceli slashed his pool liner. Miceli Affidavit ¶ 17. He claims that on numerous occasions from 2015 to now, Mr. Lombardo “has yelled at persons visiting [Mr. Miceli] ‘why are you friends with a liar and a thief” Id. ¶ 31.

         In May 2015, Mr. Miceli further alleges that Mr. Lombardo and then-Town Manager Scaife wrongfully notified the State Department of Transportation because his vehicle and a rock were in the state's right of way. Pl.'s SMF - Lombardo ¶ 7. Mr. Miceli claims the rock and other items in question were allegedly placed years earlier in 1996, with Mr. Lombardo's help. Miceli Affidavit ¶ 25. According to Mr. Miceli, Mr. Lombardo discussed this complaint with Lt. Catania, who allegedly encouraged him to complain to then-Town Manager Scaife. Id. ¶ 26.

         Mr. Miceli makes various other allegations about Mr. Lombardo: that Mr. Lombardo allegedly said derogatory things about him to his children, id. ¶ 8, and that Mr. Lombardo allegedly had claimed to Chief Custer or then-Town Manager Scaife that Mr. Miceli “had chased [him] with his service weapon and had threatened to kill the Lombardo family, ” id. ¶ 11. Mr. Miceli alleges that all of Mr. Lombardo's complaints were fabricated. See Deposition of Italo Miceli, ECF No. 134-2 at 177:12-179:14 (Sept. 22, 2017) (describing the allegation that Mr. Miceli had chased Mr. Lombardo with his service weapon, and admitting there was no investigation into the matter); see also Miceli Affidavit ¶¶ 18-19 (describing how Sergeant Fontaine told Mr. Miceli around February 2015 that “Lombardo had falsely reported” about the service weapon incident, and “that the department looked into [his] weapons claim and found it to be unfounded . . . absurd.”).

         Sometime in June 2016, Mr. Lombardo allegedly told Mr. Miceli that he would be fired by the end of that summer, and that he was “a mental case.” Pl's SMF - Lombardo ¶ 4; see also Miceli Affidavit ¶ 20.

         In June of 2016, there also was a physical altercation between Mr. Miceli and Mr. Lombardo's nephew, Robert. Pl.'s SMF - Lombardo ¶¶ 13-15; see also Ex. T: Rocky Hill Police Dept. Report of Internal Investigation of Anthony Miceli (“Daigle Report - Lombardo”), ECF No. 135-22 at 11 (Oct. 27, 2016) (“Officer Miceli clearly understood, and readily admitted, that his decision to cross the street and challenge the Lombardos was a poor decision.”).

         In August 2016, Mr. Miceli alleges that Mr. Lombardo “falsely reported” to Lt. Catania, Chief Custer, and then-Interim Town Manager Scaife that he slashed Mr. Lombardo's pool liner. See Miceli Affidavit ¶ 21. Mr. Miceli alleges Mr. Lombardo told him he made his complaints in order to get him (Mr. Miceli) fired. Id. ¶ 23.

         Mr. Miceli “alleges that false complaints by Defendant Lombardo led Defendant Town Manager Guy Scaife to begin a pattern of harassment and discrimination against him, ” which led to the “repeated and unwarranted internal investigations” into him, “zoning enforcement investigations and inspections, ” “false accusations, ” “fines, ” “[f]alse complaints” to various state agencies about him, “[m]aking a devious complaint, ” and a FBI investigation into Mr. Miceli's alleged purchase of the Humvee. Pl's SMF - Lombardo ¶ 19 (citing Compl. ¶ 19). In support of these allegations, Mr. Miceli notes that when the previous Town Manager Barbara Gilbert investigated some of Mr. Lombardo's earlier claims, no action was taken. Id. at Additional Material Facts ¶ 6. Mr. Miceli alleges that only when Mr. Scaife became Town Manager did Mr. Lombardo's complaints gain traction. Miceli Affidavit ¶¶ 11-14.

         Ultimately, Mr. Miceli alleges that Mr. Lombardo's complaints “induced” Rocky Hill to terminate his employment in November 2016. Pl's SMF - Lombardo ¶ 26 (citing Compl. ¶ 65).

         Rumors about Mr. Miceli

         In June 2015, Mr. Parent allegedly “went to the Whole Donut Shop and told a group of his friends . . . that I had PTSD and was on the rubber gun squad.” Miceli Affidavit ¶ 38. Mr. Miceli claims that Officers Keith Baker, Tom Carpenter, and Bryan Kelly informed him they heard a rumor that Mr. Miceli had PTSD and was on the rubber gun squad. Id. ¶ 42. At or around the same time, Mr. Miceli also claims he overhead Lt. Catania telling Officers Cherie Dairy, Vanessa Billotto, Sarah Raymond, and Rob Cieri that he had PTSD. Id. ¶ 43.

         Near the end of June 2015, Mr. Miceli claims that Officer Lefebre told him that he had PTSD and that he would “‘be getting a red gun soon' (meaning red rubber gun).” Id. ¶ 43.

         The Range Incident

         On or about July 29, 2015, when Mr. Miceli was assigned to complete rifle training, his vehicle became stuck in mud. Pl.'s SMF - Town Defs. ¶ 4. Officer Sara Raymond, the lead range instructor that day, reported that Mr. Miceli allegedly “yelled” at her and was “clearly upset” after she asked him whether he wanted her to call a tow truck. Ex. F: Rocky Hill Police Dept. Internal Investigation Summary Report CCN 15-03 (“Klett Report”), ECF No. 135-8 at 14 (Sept. 24, 2015) (describing an interview with Officer Raymond). Officer Raymond decided to cancel Mr. Miceli's firearm training for the day because “he had exhibited anger which could have led [to] range safety issues.” Id.

         Subsequently, Chief Custer authorized Lieutenant Brian Klett to initiate an internal investigation into the range incident. Custer Affidavit at ¶ 4. After interviewing Officer Raymond and other officers present at the range, Lt. Klett concluded that Mr. Miceli “failed to exercise patience [or] control his temper, and engaged in argumentative discussions with [Officer] Raymond which included the use of profanity.” Klett Report at 14-16, 18; see also Ex. 3: Deposition of Lieutenant Brian Klett, ECF No. 139-3 at 122:23-124:2 (May 22, 2019) (“Klett Depo.”)(“[Mr. Miceli] was acting in an aggravated, intense manner, engaged in arguments with the range masters, and on that information, the range masters all concurred that he was not in a state of readiness to be on the range to learn.”).

         On August 3, 2015, Chief Custer assigned Lt. Catania to investigate Mr. Miceli with respect to whether Mr. Miceli “purposely parked a privately owned vehicle upon the State of Connecticut right of way, for the purpose of creating a risk to his immediate neighbor, ” “did not pay a required fee and appropriately obtain a certificate of occupancy for his private home, ” and “was in purposeful violation of the Town of Rocky Hill's ordinance on blighted property, and . . . failed to cooperate or acted inappropriately with town staff.” Ex. M: Deposition of Michael D. Custer (“Custer Depo.”), ECF No. 135-15 at 114:5-115:2 (Sept. 25, 2018); see also Pl.'s SMF - Town Defs. ¶ 8 (disputing the reason behind the investigation).

         On October 8, 2015, Mr. Miceli was issued a written reprimand for behavior that was “improper, ” “aggressive[, ] and disrespectful” in regards to the incident with Officer Raymond. Ex. O: Rocky Hill Police Dept. Reprimand Letter (“Reprimand Letter”), ECF No. 135-17 (Oct. 8, 2015).

         On October 9, 2015, Mr. Miceli was placed on indefinite administrative leave. Miceli Affidavit ¶ 18.

         Around November 2015, Chief Custer ordered Mr. Miceli to attend a fitness for duty examination “because he had displayed confrontational and argumentative behavior.” Custer Affidavit ¶ 7. He allegedly would do so if an individual exhibits “behavior in the workplace that would be characterized as abnormal, ” and if that behavior “inhibits the individual from doing their job.” Ex. 1: Deposition of Michael D. Custer, ECF No. 139-7 at 92:2-11 (Sept. 25, 2018); see also Id. at 98:18-99:5 (stating that he would order a fitness for duty exam if he “believe[d] an officer might be a danger to the community”).

         On January 4, 2016, Mr. Miceli allegedly was informed he had passed the fitness for duty examination, but was not immediately reinstated. Miceli Affidavit ¶¶ 20-21.

         On January 20, 2016, after Lt. Catania's investigation, Chief Custer concluded that Mr. Miceli's “behavior was improper and in violation of Departmental Rules of Conduct, Connecticut General Statutes, DOT regulations and Town ordinances.” Ex. W: CCN-2015-04, Four-Day Suspension (Unpaid) and Counseling (“Suspension Letter”), ECF No. 135-25 at 2 (Jan. 20, 2016). Chief Custer also noted that Mr. Miceli had declined to move his vehicle off of the State's right of way, after receiving a certified notice from the State Department of Transportation and specific direction from Lt. Catania. See Id. at 1-2. But Mr. Miceli notes that when Chief Custer ordered him to move his vehicle, he did so immediately. Miceli Affidavit ¶¶ 31-32. Following mediation and Mr. Miceli's agreement to attend counseling, Chief Custer reduced his suspension from four to two days. Custer Depo. at 174:20-175:10.

         Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities Complaint

         On or about December 23, 2015, Mr. Miceli filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) alleging many of the same claims he is raising in ...


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