New Britain Apologizes To Police Officer For Poor Communication
Officer Complained That City Told Him Life-Saving Duties Not Work-Related
By DON STACOM,
The Hartford Courant
12:21 PM EST, January 21, 2012
Police Officer Frank Barbagiovanni got an apology from city hall Friday, but none of the assurances that he was seeking.
Mayor Tim O'Brien called Barbagiovanni to a meeting Friday morning after a storm of bad publicity about a city attorney's letter concerning the officer's insurance coverage.
The letter advised that the city will contest any worker's compensation Barbagiovanni might seek if he becomes ill from performing CPR on a dying boy in November. It also appears to suggest that his rescue efforts were not part of his job, but on Friday the mayor's office said emphatically that the letter doesn't mean that.
The section of the city's attorney's letter was merely "boilerplate," language common in any worker's compensation correspondence, said Phil Sherwood, an aide to O'Brien.
"Any reasonable person would understand that the attorney wasn't saying CPR isn't part of a police officer's duties," Sherwood said, who said the mayor applauds Barbagiovanni's work at the emergency call.
But Barbagiovanni sees it differently.
Barbagiovanni has filed no claim for compensation, but fears that the city's letter could block coverage if he eventually develops symptoms from any contagious disease. More troubling, he said, is that the letter implies that CPR isn't part of an officer's duties, even though police are trained to perform it. The notice says that any medical claim arising from the CPR incident is "not causally related to a work-related condition."
After getting the letter, Barbagiovanni sent back an emotional three-page letter in mid-December asking for clarification. He distributed copies to union President John Gonzalez, Chief John Gagliardi, O'Brien and the police commission. Weeks later, he said, he'd gotten no answer from anybody, except word from Gonzalez that the chief was irritated at him for writing the letter.
On Friday morning, the day after Barbagiovanni's story became public, O'Brien met with him and a union representative at city hall. Barbagiovanni said the mayor apologized for the city's failure to reply to his letter, but the mayor's staff said the officer was reading something into the letter that wasn't there. And he said he got no assurance that the city would stand behind him if the CPR experience leads to an illness in the future.
"They said I misinterpreted the letter," Barbagiovanni said Friday afternoon, "but they haven't given me anything in writing. When they asked if I had a lawyer, I said yes — and right away, that was it. They said their lawyer would talk with my lawyer."
Gagliardi issued a statement Friday saying his agency trains all of its officers to be medical response technicians, and provides training to keep those skills current. Gagliardi wrote that Barbagiovanni "performed his duties expertly in an attempt to save the life of a 10-year-old child. This has been recognized by his immediate supervisors and we are proud of the efforts he put forth.
"Officer Barbagiovanni filed a worker's compensation injury report for a potential exposure to harmful pathogens with the corporation counsel office, where his claim will ultimately be handled," Gagliardi wrote.
Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant