AP NEWS

Greenwich defends firing of parking official

December 20, 2018

GREENWICH — The town’s legal staff is defending the decision to fire the director of parking services late last year.

In a lawsuit filed in state Superior Court, Rita Azrelyant says the town “acted with reckless disregard” of her rights. But the town’s lawyers are now saying otherwise.

The controversy at the Greenwich Department of Parking Service began when an employee, Michael Gordon, was arrested and charged with financial crimes in April 2017. He entered guilty pleas to felony counts of first- and second-degree larceny in September after making restitution of about $4,000. He avoided probation and jail time.

Azrelyant said she attempted to initiate new procedures in the parking services department, which would have improved internal security, before Gordon was arrested.

In court papers, she said her efforts were “frustrated and blocked” by First Selectman Peter Tesei and Town Administrator Ben Branyan. She maintained that she was attempting to improve internal operations, “but she was punished for her efforts to address important issues regarding the public finances of the town, and malfeasance by town employees.” Her lawsuit maintains that she was made a scapegoat for the embarrassing public revelations of the problems in the parking services department.

Tesei and Branyan have called Azrelyant’s court claims “unsubstantiated allegations” and “patently false.”

In court papers filed last week, the town’s lawyers also denied her contentions. The town’s legal defense maintains that Azrelyant’s employment was terminated because the administration “was legitimately dissatisfied with (her) job performance.” The motion says Azrelyant’s position was ended “for lawful reasons that would have caused the termination regardless of any other motivation.” It did not provide specifics.

The town administration earlier said the position of parking services director was being phased out, as part of a larger process to improve the delivery of services.

Azrelyant is suing for damages for lost employment and lost wages, as well as for emotional distress.

The town’s legal defense also says she has “failed to make reasonable efforts to obtain successor employment since the termination of her employment.”

If there is no settlement in Azrelyant’s lawsuit, a trial date has been tentatively scheduled for August 2019, according to court records.

rmarchant@greenwichtime.com

AP RADIO
Update hourly