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Officers sue police chief claiming defamation, invasion of privacy

By: Mary Ellen Godin
Posted: Thursday, April 21, 2011 11:11 am

MERIDEN - A former police officer and a current officer have filed separate civil lawsuits against Police Chief Jeffry Cossette, one claiming defamation, and the other an invasion of privacy.

The two suits were filed in Meriden Superior Court by their attorney Sally Roberts of New Britain.

In one case, former officer John Neron claims Chief Cossette defamed him by providing private information contained in his personnel file to William Glass, a manager at Bozzuto's in Cheshire, according to the lawsuit.

The information was later used to have him terminated, the lawsuit states.

Glass is also named as a defendant.

In the other lawsuit, officer Donald Huston claims Chief Cossette violated his privacy by disclosing to the Record-Journal information about an incident with the state Department of Environmental Protection published in an April 8th article.

The lawsuit states that Cossette told the newspaper Huston was arrested in 2007 in a hunting accident in Berlin. The case had been dismissed and the arrest is not a matter of public record, according to the lawsuit, nor is the information subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

Huston further asserts that the information was more than two years old and should have been removed from his personnel file. Cossette told the Record-Journal during an April 7tinterview that Huston had a heated exchange with a DEP officer investigating a 2007 shooting accident in Berlin. An internal affairs investigation centered on Huston's conduct during the confrontation with the officer, not Huston's eventual arrest, Cossette said. Huston was given a reprimand letter in his personnel file for poorly representing the department.

"Huston was issued a written reprimand for his unprofessional conduct with the DEP investigator," Cossette said Thursday, adding there was nothing in the letter of reprimand stating it would be removed after two years. Inf ormation about Huston's arrest is contained in the internal affairs report on the DEP incident and is available to the public, Cossette said.

The Record-Journal has submitted a written request for a copy of the report through the Police Department.

Both men are seeking more than $15,000 in damages.

Huston is one of two officers who filed a complaint against the chief and several department supervisors alleging nepotism in the handling of police brutality allegations against the chief 's son, Officer Evan Cossette.

Roberts said work on Neron's defamation lawsuit began in February 2010, well before the allegations of nepotism by Huston and Sullivan were raised.

Neron had also sued the chief for wrongful termination and retaliation, but this week lost an appeal.

City Attorney Deborah Moore said Thursday copies of the latest lawsuits have gone to the city 's insurance carrier to determine if they are covered under the city 's insurance. The city defended Chief Cossette in Neron's wrongful termination suit because it ruled he was acting in his capacity as a police chief .

The latest Neron lawsuit states Chief Cossette shared information with Glass about the status of Neron's resignation from the Police Department. Glass used the information to build a case against Neron at Bozzuto's and he was eventually fired.

Chief Cossette said Thursday the details of Neron's resignation are also public information available in Neron's personnel file.

Glass did not return a phone call seeking comment. Bozzuto's is not named in the suit. Kevin Daly, vice president and general counsel for Bozzuto's, confirmed that Glass was served with a lawsuit Wednesday.

Daly said Bozzuto's is doing its own investigation and would not comment on pending litigation.




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