Showdown set for East Haven whistle-blower cop
East Haven Police Officer Vincent Ferrara is going to show up for work on Thursday, but it could be his last day on the job.
Armed with a letter from his neurosurgeon clearing him to return, Ferrara and his legal team are scheduled for a late-afternoon showdown with Police Chief Edward Lennon.
Lennon may recommend firing him for a pending disciplinary incident that Ferrara alleges in a federal court is part of an orchestrated campaign that’s an extension of the retaliation he saw after helping federal investigators uncover the department’s human rights violations in 2012.
Ferrara, 53, is suing the city, Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. and Police Department personnel including Lennon and the town Board of Police Commissioners for allegedly retaliating against him during and after the federal Department of Justice probe that sent four cops to prison for abusing Latino suspects.
James S. Brewer, Ferrara’s attorney, this week forwarded a letter to Lennon from the physician at the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Neurosurgery who has been treating Ferrara for brain cancer over the last year that stresses he has recovered from surgery and it ready to return to the department where he’s worked for 10 years.
“Obviously, reasonable accommodation would be on an as-needed basis for medical appointments, or if he has a reaction to chemotherapy or radiation therapy,” Brewer wrote in an accompanying email. “In that case, Officer Ferrara would utilize his sick time as set forth in (the federal Family and Medical Leave Act).”
Ferrara has been on paid suspension since December 15, 2017, over the alleged improper use of an email server. Soon thereafter he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the brain cancer that killed U.S. Sen. John McCain. The lawsuit also charges that he was fraudulently deprived of his sick and vacation days.
“It’s another game they’re playing with someone’s life,” Brewer said in a Wednesday interview. “They’re never had a consistent reason for not paying Officer Ferrara after September 1. We want to know who’s paying him for coming in tomorrow?”
In December 2010, the FBI asked for Ferrara’s help in its investigation into the systemic persecution and abuse of Latinos. He met clandestinely with federal investigators numerous times, and testified before a grand jury. Police officers John Miller, David Cari, Dennis Spaulding and Jason Zullo went to prison. The town’s settlement with the federal government over the issue of Latino harassment - and the protection of whistle blowers from retaliation - ended in December of last year.
Ferrara’s lawsuit, reported earlier by Hearst Connecticut Media, charged that he was harassed and intimidated from the time he first got involved with the federal agents.
Requests for comment from the police chief were not returned Wednesday. Brewer said that the way he understands local regulations, Chief Lennon can only suspend officers for up to 10 days, and it would take the town’s Board of Police Commissioners to terminate Ferrara.
Last week, Maturo declined comment on the issue until the civil lawsuit, to be scheduled in U.S. District Court sometime in early 2019, is finished.
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