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Fired Bridgeport librarian files federal lawsuit

September 27, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Ex-Library Director Scott Hughes has decided to wage the battle to win back the job he held for nearly a decade in federal court.

Jury selection in Hughes’ wrongful termination lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in November, 2016 — the month after the Library Board of Directors fired him — was scheduled for this week.

But on Tuesday that legal action was withdrawn. Hughes and his attorney, Josephine Smalls Miller, have instead opted to pursue their case in the United States District Court, District of Connecticut.

Neither Hughes nor Smalls Miller could be reached for comment Thursday.

Hughes, a member of Bridgeport’s Democratic Town Committee, has alleged that he was the target of racial discrimination — he is black — and unfairly treated because of his increased political activities and support for Mayor Joe Ganim.

Before his termination, Hughes had been placed on probation by the library board in February 2016. His critics have charged that he proved to be a poor manager and communicator.

Hughes federal lawsuit says his “performance and accomplishments were exemplary.”

In the document, Hughes takes credit for the successful passage of a 2009 referendum requiring more library funding from the city, and for library renovations, expanded hours, the purchase of a book mobile and mobilizing more community support for the library system.

Hughes’ federal legal filing also claims that after he was placed on probation he was never provided “written or verbally articulated specific performance criteria ... to objectively measure his performance.”

Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleges, Caucasian library employees were treated differently by the board.

“The defendants (the library board) have engaged in a continuous practice and policy of racially discriminatory treatment of African-Americans,” concludes the lawsuit.

But Hughes’ complaint does not simply target white board members, but names all of the individuals who were members at the time he was fired, including minorities, at least one of whom — Sauda Baraka — had opposed getting rid of Hughes.

“I just find this to be really, absolutely outrageous,” Baraka said at the time. “It only makes me think it’s very personal.” .

Meanwhile another minority board member, William Holden, an African American, voted to terminate Hughes. Holden argued the board’s decision was based on “nothing other than facts” that Hughes’ performance as director was mediocre.

Reached for comment about Hughes’ moving his lawsuit from state to federal court, Deputy Bridgeport City Attorney John Bohannon said, “The Board of Directors of the library continues to deny Mr. Hughes’ claims in the federal court, just as it did when the action was pending in state court.”

The change in venue is likely to further delay efforts by his former employer to replace Hughes. As reported in July, the library board, following a nationwide search for a new director, lost its finalist — Tracy Allen of South Carolina — because of her predecessor’s ongoing efforts to regain his employment.

“Part of it was because she’s moving from South Carolina up here,” Library Board of Directors member Tom Errichetti said at the time. “So it was a major shake-up change for her to relocate, which obviously would impact her decision.”

So the board decided to put its search on hold and turned to finding an interim library director, hiring. Elaine Braithwaite for that job in August.

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