UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
CYNTHIA ANGER Plaintiff, VS. Civil Action No.

JAMES L. RICHETELLI, JR., sued in his individual and official capacity; WINTHROP S. SMITH, JR.,

sued in his individual and official
capacity, and the CITY OF MILFORD,
Defendants. March 9, 2010
COMPLAINT Introduction

1.

The First Amendment forbids government retaliation against public employees for

their lawful union-organizing activities. The Mayor and City Attorney of Milford, wholly contemptuous of the Constitutional rule, did just that. Four working days before Plaintiffs
leadership of a union-organizing drive was about to culminate in a workplace-representation election, Defendants fired her. Their pretext was laughably flimsy: the Mayor declared himself shocked, shocked that Plaintiff had actually raised her voice when disagreeing with her boss, the City Attorney. For this offense, he ordered her to clean out her desk (the City provided a box)
and leave the premises immediately. This after Plaintiff, an Assistant City Attorney, had served the City faithfully and well for twenty-two years. Plaintiff brings this case to remedy Defendant's

unlawful conduct.
Jurisdiction and Venue

2.

This case is brought pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the First and Fourteenth

Amendments to the United States Constitution, and the laws of the State of Connecticut.

Jurisdiction is conferred on this court by Title 28 U.S.C. §§1331 and 1343 and 42 U.S.C. §1983;
supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims is conferred by Title 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
Parties

3.

Plaintiff Cynthia Anger, a resident of the State of Connecticut, worked for twenty-

two years as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Milford. During that entire time, she was a capable, conscientious employee, respected for her legal expertise and high integrity.
4. Defendant City of Milford, a Connecticut municipality established in accordance

with the laws of the State of Connecticut, employed plaintiff during those twenty-two years.

5.

At all times relevant to this action, Defendant James L. Richetelli Jr. has been

Mayor of the City of Milford and as such its chief policymaker, with final authority over hiring
and firing employees such as Plaintiff. 6. At all times relevant to this action, Defendant Winthrop S. Smith, Jr. has been

City Attorney for the City of Milford and Plaintiffs direct supervisor.
Facts

7.

During her tenure as Assistant City Attorney, Plaintiffs duties involved

offering professional legal advice and counsel to various mayors, department heads, and city
agencies. She excelled in both knowledge and skill. She was the go-to person for many city agencies and officials, addressing both everyday problems and the most difficult legal issues.
She was also prized for her writing ability and wrote or edited virtually every administrative, trial,
and appellate brief that the City Attorney's Office filed for more than fifteen years. She was

known to be independent both politically and professionally; she gave advice according to the law

as she saw it, without trying to make her opinions fit a partisan agenda.

8.

In addition to being an able attorney, plaintiff was a model employee. During 22

years of employment, she was never once subjected to disciplinary action of any kind.
9. During the summer and fall of 2009, Plaintiff began, along with her co-workers in

the City Attorney's Office of Milford, to advocate for unionization of her department and

contacted representatives of the AFL-CIO and AFSCME Council 4, a labor union.
10. Plaintiff led the drive to organize her department. For example, she spoke to fellow

employees about unionizing; she was the primary' contact person between AFSCME Council 4
and her co-workers regarding unionization; and she held union-organizing meetings in her home,
where she and her co-workers signed union cards.

11.

Defendants opposed Plaintiffs organizing activities and did everything they

could to prevent her from succeeding.

12.

Despite Defendants' efforts, and over their strenuous objections, the

Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations ("the Labor Board") informed Defendants that an
election would be held to determine whether or not attorneys in the City Attorney's Office, including Plaintiff, wanted to be represented for purposes of collective bargaining by AFSCME
Council 4.

13.
of the election.

That notification came on February 17. The Labor Board set March 2 as the date

14.

This timing gave Defendants just two weeks as their window of opportunity to

retaliate against Plaintiff before the union election.

15.

Arrogant and brazen, Defendants were determined to seize on any pretext to fire

Plaintiff in retaliation for her union-organizing activities.

16.

Accordingly, on February 24, 2010, five business days after notification of the

election from the Labor Board and four business days before the scheduled election Defendant

Richetelli, at Defendant Smith's urging, had a letter hand-delivered to Plaintiff, terminating her
employment immediately and ordering her to clean out her desk and leave the building. 17. Plaintiffs alleged offense was that on Monday, February 22, she raised her voice

to Defendant Smith in the course of a conversation about legal issues facing the City. Her doing
so, the Mayor told her, required him to fire her immediately. 18.
example:

The reason the Mayor gave for firing Plaintiff was wildly implausible. For

19.

No one in the City Attorney's office had ever been fired - or disciplined - for the

offense of raising his or her voice.

20.

In fact, neither Defendant Richetelli nor any other mayor during Plaintiffs tenure

as an employee had ever fired or disciplined an employee for raising his or her voice. 21. The offense for which Plaintiff was fired amounted to speaking her mind,

forcefully but without profanity or personal disparagement, about city business within the scope
of the responsibilities of the City Attorney's office.
22. It was not uncommon for City employees to raise their voices and engage in heated

discussions about City business.

23.

Both Defendant Richetelli and Defendant Smith had a history of yelling at City

employees. To give just one among many examples. Defendant Smith berated the City Historian,

age 76, loudly, openly, and at length for some alleged misstep.

24.
benefits.

As a result of Defendants* retaliation, Plaintiff will lose income and fringe

25.

As a further result of Defendants* retaliation, Plaintiff has sustained and will

continue to sustain anxiety and distress about losing her job after twenty-two years, as well as
because of Defendants' false accusation of misconduct.
Claims

First Claim:

Retaliation for Exercise of First Amendment Rights

26.

Plaintiffs union-organizing activities, as described above, were at all times

protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
27. Defendants Richetelli and Smith were fully aware of Plaintiffs union-

organizing activities and aware that they could not legally retaliate against her because of these
activities.

28.

Defendants Richetelli and Smith nevertheless purposefully and knowingly

retaliated against Plaintiff because of her union-organizing activities.

29.

Richetelli and Smith's conduct was taken in reckless and wanton disregard of

Plaintiffs First Amendment rights.

Second Claim:

Retaliation for Exercise of First Amendment Rights: Municipal
Liability

30.

Defendant Richetelli had final authority over the firing of an Assistant City

Attorney such as Plaintiff, and his act of terminating her in retaliation for her exercise of First
Amendment rights therefore represented official City policy.

31.

The City is therefore liable to Plaintiff for firing her as retaliation for her exercise

of her First Amendment rights.

Third Claim: Violation of CGS § 31-51q by All Defendants 32. Defendants' retaliatory termination of Plaintiff on account of her First

Amendment-protected union organizing activities violated Plaintiffs rights under CGS § 31-51q.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE Plaintiff claims the following relief
1. 2. 3. compensatory damages; punitive damages; reinstatement;

4.
5.

backpay and frontpay, including fringe benefits;
costs, including reasonable attorneys' fees; and

6.

such further and additional relief as may be just.

PLAINTIFF CLAIMS TRIAL BY JURY

THE PLAINTIFF

James Bhandary-Alexander

David N. Rosen

400 Orange Street New Haven, Connecticut 06511 (203)787-3513
CT00196

CT28135
Email: drosen@davidtosenlaw.com

Email: jbhandary-alexander@davidro8enlaw.com
Her Attorneys