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Apr 30, 2014 10:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Female Police Sergeant Files Discrimination Lawsuit Against Southampton Town

Apr 30, 2014 11:25 AM

One of two Southampton Town Police sergeants who registered gender discrimination complaints against their superiors and town lawmakers last year has filed a federal lawsuit seeking damages and restitution for the harassment she says she endured as a female cop.

Attorneys for Sergeant Lisa Costa filed the suit in U.S. District Court late last week, alleging that Sgt. Costa was denied promotions and special assignments in favor of male officers. The litigation asks the court to award her damages to compensate for lost potential wages and punitive damages for the “egregious and relentless gender discrimination,” though it does not specify a dollar amount for either.

Sgt. Costa’s attorney, Kelly Magnuson of Borrelli & Associates in Great Neck, did not return a request for comment this week.

Sgt. Costa and police department colleague Sergeant Susan Ralph both filed civil rights complaints with the State Department of Human Rights last year, accusing the police department, the Southampton Town Board and Police Chief Robert Pearce of failing to promote them or give them choice duty assignments throughout their careers in the department.

The lawsuit brought by Sgt. Costa this week states that promotions to male officers were routinely approved by the Town Board when made by the department chief, but that her own was denied, despite repeated recommendations.

“And at that point, [the] plaintiff ran smack into the glass ceiling that the defendants implemented for female police officers,” the lawsuit reads. “The defendants’ discriminatory treatment of females is not limited to their hiring and promotion practices and policies. Indeed, for those females lucky enough to join the defendants’ ranks, the overwhelmingly male dominated force treats those females in a downright hostile manner.”

In late 2011, then Town Police Chief William Wilson recommended to the Town Board that James Kiernan be promoted from sergeant to lieutenant. Three months later, after the retirement of another lieutenant, former Chief Wilson recommended Sgt. Costa for promotion to lieutenant and two male officers for promotion to sergeant. The Town Board approved the appointment of the male officers but not that of Sgt. Costa.

After the civil rights complaint filed last year, Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst revealed that she and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming had both voted in favor of promoting Sgt. Costa when she was recommended, but that the board majority at the time—former Town Councilmen Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone, and current Councilwoman Christine Scalera—refused to support her promotion.

Former Chief Wilson pressed the board on the promotion twice more, to no avail, before administratively promoting Sgt. Costa to “acting lieutenant,” and assigning her to the head of the patrol unit.

After Chief Wilson’s abrupt retirement in November 2012, Sgt. Costa was stripped of her acting rank and patrol oversight duties, though she remains the ranking officer in the detectives division.

The suit also alleges several instances of sexual harassment by other department officers—including a former chief, James Overton; former Lieutenant Bill Hughes, who retired in 2011, the same year he made an unsuccessful bid for the Town Board; and current department second-in-command Captain Lawrence Schurek. The incidents, Sgt. Costa said, included then-Chief Overton routinely tracking her down for one-on-one conversations while she was on late-night patrols, and inappropriate comments made by several department members.

None of the above former officers could immediately be reached for comment regarding the lawsuit.

Sgt. Costa’s lawsuit also charges that she was retaliated against by Chief Pearce for having filed the civil rights complaint last year. She is alleging that he stripped her of some duties, denied her overtime and would not grant her permission to return to work on light duty after she underwent surgery. Chief Pearce did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The lawsuit paints a picture of a decided anti-female culture within the police department, noting that just eight of the town’s 90 officers, or less than 9 percent, are female, and that no woman officer has ever risen above the rank of sergeant. Nationwide, women make up about 18 percent of law enforcement ranks, the suit claims.

Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said this week that the town has referred the lawsuit to its insurance company for the appointment of outside legal counsel to handle the case, which will be paid for by insurance.

“From a legal standpoint, obviously, we intend to defend against [the suit],” she said. “From a practical perspective, it’s gone out to the insurance company now, who is working on assigning counsel. These federal cases require so much discovery that you need an army to cover it.”

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Another opportunity for the dirty laundry to be aired.

Ms. Costa was quite active in the hunt for the hit-and-run killer of Sister Jackie Walsh almost 22 months ago on July 9, 2012, and may know more about the 11-day delay in releasing the ID and photo of the alleged driver?

Rest in Peace.


http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/Water-Mill/431607/Suspect-In-Fatal-Water-Mill-Hit-and-Run-Remains-Elusive-Cops-Reveal-Where-Car-Was-Found

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/Water-Mill/430927/Police-Nun-Found-Dead-In-Water-Mill-Possible-Hit-And-Run-Victim?message=posted

Also, ...more
By PBR (4852), Southampton on Apr 30, 14 12:03 PM
Are we in double digits yet in lawsuits filed against the STPD for malfeasance and misfeasance?

Perhaps if the town boosts cop pay to an average of $250,000/yr. from the current $150,000, the strength will be less likely to feel the need to augment its income via suits like this. We could point out, as well, that they will almost certainly qualify for the pot of gold of disability retirement so why be ingrates? Sgt. Costa, for instance, can expect to receive 50% more than her already ...more
By highhatsize (3504), East Quogue on Apr 30, 14 12:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
Was it parking in a handicapped spot, fire zone or a friends DWI that got you on the Merry-Go-Round? You just salivate over any story involving SHTPD as you wait for your painted pony to come round and round again.
By But I'm a blank! (1277), Hampton Bays on Apr 30, 14 12:18 PM
Blank have you considered that your fixation on HHS looks about as Pavlovian as you accuse him of being?

Just sayin' . . .
By PBR (4852), Southampton on Apr 30, 14 12:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Blank - as per HHS, it was an incident where Mr. HHS got a ticket, went to court and supposedly the officer "lied" when recounting the offense.

That little moment ignited a fire that burns deep within HHS' belly
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Apr 30, 14 1:13 PM
Well Hat , neither one of us were there, so to comment on the story in your fashion, I.e., "there is smoke so there must be fire"
is apropos of nothing.
How much would our taxes decrease under SCPD? How much less do they earn? If we did that, would you stop your incessant complaining about which you have neither the cajones or inclination to vent you issues with the elected authorities?
By But I'm a blank! (1277), Hampton Bays on May 1, 14 4:49 PM
Why can't we just all agree that the most qualified person for the job should be hired or promoted regardless of gender or race ?
But I guess it's easier for some to file a lawsuit hoping to get a settlement that may be better then just putting in an honest days work .
These lawsuits are nothing more then blackmale . The press should educate us as to why the complainant believe she is more qualified and more suitable for the promotion then others if it is listed in her lawsuit . Not only ...more
By Urit (22), Quogue on Apr 30, 14 1:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
You make the assumption that Costa was not, in fact, the "most qualified person". Wilson, familiar with the operation of the department, thought otherwise and pushed for her promotion and made the "acting" designation. The Overton, Tenaglia, Kiernan administration has certainly been accused of enough irregularities to not jump to the conclusion that Costa's charges are fabricated.
By VOS (1056), WHB on Apr 30, 14 2:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
Evidently the town board and the chiefs with the exemption of wilson didn't think so .
By Urit (22), Quogue on Apr 30, 14 2:35 PM
what a concidence ..all the targets of the discrimination lawsuit are Republicans. We have had a female Town Supervisor since 2007 ( the most powerfully elected position in this Town) , and we had a female Town Board majority since 2011. Throne Holst, Scalera, and Fleming. So a female Town Board majority committed discrimination against female police promotion candidates?
By GALAXIE (43), SAG HARBOR on Apr 30, 14 2:05 PM
Try reading the article more carefully . . .
By PBR (4852), Southampton on Apr 30, 14 2:19 PM
2 members liked this comment
what did I miss?
By GALAXIE (43), SAG HARBOR on Apr 30, 14 3:53 PM
Perhaps I was being a bit technical, but the action of the Town Board was not the actionable gender discrimination under the law. Rather it was the later actions of the PD.

Your point is well taken that the female majority on the Board did not uniformly support Ms. Costa's promotion. There were likely many hidden non-gender reasons for this IMO, Town politics being what it is . . .
By PBR (4852), Southampton on Apr 30, 14 4:50 PM
PS the lawsuit alleges a pattern and practice of gender discrimination over many many years in the SHT PD, so the focus is there -- not on the Town Board which has had many changes in makeup over the same time period.
By PBR (4852), Southampton on Apr 30, 14 4:56 PM
Waaaaaaa another over compensated whiner who make 150k a year full medical 4 weeks vacation, dozens of sick and personal paid days, and she is entitled to more? The pay is disgusting, and the lawsuit is disturbing. Let her join the military and you can get 1200 a month,get shot at, and be put in a veterans hospital not fit for a wild animal. This officer is a DISGRACE!
By chief1 (2404), southampton on Apr 30, 14 4:21 PM
5 members liked this comment
You are out of line once again IMO.
By PBR (4852), Southampton on Apr 30, 14 4:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
If you have a problem with her compensation complain to the town board which is charged with negotiating salaries on your behalf. Is the lawsuit disturbing because it's meritless or because it has merit and how are you sure?

As far as military pay, you're living in the past - way in the past and also totally irrelevant. Imagine that - an irrelevancy from the Chief!
By VOS (1056), WHB on May 1, 14 1:03 AM
Interesting to click on the green "thumbs up" under chief1's comment to see who Liked it.
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 6:41 AM
Its irrelevant? Here we go with "go to the town board " nonsense.. The funny thing is this joke of high pay will be on our kids when they can't afford paying these huge pensions. We already got a dose in 07 of actually how much trouble municipalities are in.I don't begrudge anyone that makes good money. Making 3 time the avg household income and thinking they are discriminated about is ridiculous.
Its ironic our government voted against a minimum wage of 10 dollars an hour yesterday, This ...more
By chief1 (2404), southampton on May 1, 14 4:22 AM
There is more than one problem, and they are not related.

1. salary packages at SHT PD, which are high in your view;

2. gender discrimination

These are TWO separate problems.

Cramming them into one comment of outrage is not logical.

Thank you for your careful attention.

Mr. Spock
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 5:47 AM
And in a universe far, far away, Chiefs daughter takes a civil service test, gets appointed Police Officer. After advancing through the ranks, finding the love of her life, a woman, perhaps, she bears a child and her boss is happy as her breasts have finally started showing signs of life as the embryo grows in her womb. Said boss comments, perhaps even cops a cheap feel. When said daughter reacts with disgust, said boss prevents her from receiving another promotion. Bit that's OK cause she makes ...more
By But I'm a blank! (1277), Hampton Bays on May 1, 14 4:46 PM
2 members liked this comment
Pun intended we hope!

Well said, blank! . . .
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 5:02 PM
If this were a woman working anyplace else, every single comment would be in support of her.

It seems to me some of you are saying that because she makes a lot of money, she should keep her mouth shut. Only poor people should allege discrimination?

Ever think that the only people able to take on the government are the people that make a lot of money?
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on May 1, 14 6:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
Actually in some people's minds, not even poor people in the US should allege discrimination, because that would be griping about a life which is better than in most of the world.

"How dare 'they' complain?"

[sarcasm]
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 6:37 AM
2 members liked this comment
Reality spikes again?
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 11:45 AM
2 members liked this comment
The sun rises in the east; Nature and But I'm a blank! post mindless ad hominem attacks, and scandal embroils the STPD.

God's in His heaven and all's right with the world.
By highhatsize (3504), East Quogue on May 1, 14 12:18 PM
Was simply bringing clarity to Blank!, why the attitude?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 1, 14 12:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Such innocence . . .

Nature: "That little moment ignited a fire that burns deep within HHS' belly"
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 2:58 PM
PBR, a little too sensitive don't you think? I didn't read that post as an "ad hominem" attack at all.
By dnice (2307), Hampton Bays on May 1, 14 3:04 PM
.
.
.
.
.


( o )


[open mouth gasping in amazement]
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 3:15 PM
"1. (of an argument or reaction) arising from or appealing to the emotions and not reason or logic.

attacking an opponent's motives or character rather than the policy or position they maintain.

2. relating to or associated with a particular person."
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 3:18 PM
"attacking an opponent's motives or character rather than the policy or position they maintain."

There are plenty of examples of this on this site. I don't see it in that one post. Have they gotten into this before?
By dnice (2307), Hampton Bays on May 1, 14 5:24 PM
Two wrongs don't make a right IMO.
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 5:30 PM
Not sure that pertains to this but...ok.
By dnice (2307), Hampton Bays on May 1, 14 5:46 PM
They are the same type that complain about high taxes and kids having to leave the areaand wonder why.
By chief1 (2404), southampton on May 1, 14 1:26 PM
Indeed, chief1, as was said above:

"How dare 'they' complain!"


[sarcasm]
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 2:51 PM
PS chief1, those uppity women, the nerve! And their refusal to "put that thing away."

Makes one wonder doesn't it?
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 1, 14 2:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
This has nothing to do with being a woman. If I had a dollar for every time I have been done wrong I would be very wealthy. PBR go back to thinking of yiur scoot train. LOL!!!!!!!!
By chief1 (2404), southampton on May 2, 14 12:02 AM
Thanks for the reminder -- the season is upon us for another CR39a traffic SNAFU, with no preparation for the East End Shuttle scoot train to become a reality.

Build it and they will come.
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 2, 14 5:45 AM
to But I'm a blank!:

Our taxes might not decrease under the SCPD but we would no longer be burdened with the dysfunctional STPD, many of whom view their nominal job (as enforcers of the law) as irrelevant other than as the MacGuffin that enables them to receive astounding salaries while providing them with the opportunity to shake down the town government for even more $$.

As for speaking to the "elected authorities", we have been down this road before. With town board members ...more
By highhatsize (3504), East Quogue on May 2, 14 11:19 AM
Ah yes, because the SCPD has been without scandal...

For all the troubles SHPD has had, I don't recall any officers being arrested because they were caught on camera stealing money from non-english speakers.

Can we agree that the current police situation (be it SHPD or SCPD) is not on par with the cost and that making the switch is akin to putting lipstick on a pig?

Not to mention, if the SHPD were to be disbanded, and SCPD took over.. do you not think that SCPD would ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 5, 14 12:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Yo Chief!
Come on, please weigh in on how this would differ if it was YOUR daughter. And her partner. Or how about, for all these times "you were wronged" how many involved sexual scenarios? Perhaps your boss glared at your crotch and you were offended? Was you boss male or female?
By But I'm a blank! (1277), Hampton Bays on May 5, 14 12:02 PM
to Nature:

Quote:

"Can we agree that the current police situation (be it SHPD or SCPD) is not on par with the cost and that making the switch is akin to putting lipstick on a pig?"
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tsk, tsk! Such derogatory language.



By highhatsize (3504), East Quogue on May 6, 14 11:00 AM
Wow, delusion is for breakfast I guess.

You take every chance you get to assault me with your blabbering verbiage, and when I finally make a statement that is in line with your views, your response is that?

Boy, there's no winning here!
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 6, 14 11:45 AM
to Nature:

Down, boy. It was a JOKE referencing your unintentional use of a pejorative used to describe both cops and women in a comment on an article about a policewoman.
By highhatsize (3504), East Quogue on May 6, 14 5:25 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By guest (61), Bridgehampton on May 6, 14 9:16 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By guest (61), Bridgehampton on May 6, 14 9:18 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By guest (61), Bridgehampton on May 6, 14 9:22 PM
It is clear that there is a case here, Kiernan pleads guilty on departmental charges and the board promotes him. Sgt. Costa is a professional and I don't remember ever reading about her. The Southampton Town PD is still, the good old boys club.
By guest (61), Bridgehampton on May 7, 14 7:44 AM
The editorial in this week's Press, after summarizing in detail the plaintiff's allegations of improprieties at the SHT PD, concludes:
_____________________________________

"Allegations in a lawsuit are just that, and it’s possible that Southampton Town will mount a vigorous defense that convinces a court that the Town Police Department is not a misogynistic, puerile, unprofessional and, yes, discriminatory organization. But as it stands, there is plenty of evidence that the department, ...more
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 7, 14 5:55 PM
2 members liked this comment
PS -- A PDF of the Complaint is linked above the article. Paragraphs in the mid-40's contain specific (alleged) discriminatory acts.
By PBR (4852), Southampton on May 8, 14 4:11 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Erin 27 E (1007), southampton on May 10, 14 9:01 PM
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