A former jail attendant who sued Quogue Village Police and village officials in 2011, alleging that they ignored her complaints that she had been sexually harassed by a part-time police officer who left a sexually explicit note inside her village home, has reached a monetary settlement with the defendants.
The village has agreed to pay Charlotte Lander, who quit her part-time job at the jail in June 2010 after a decade of employment, a sum of $16,500, according to a copy of the settlement that was finalized last week. The sum covers three years of salary she would have made if she had not quit her job following the incident, according to her attorney, Michael McClellan of the firm Perini and Hoerger in Hauppauge.
“All I ever wanted was to be protected,” Ms. Lander said in a recent interview. “It was never about the money. You can’t offer me enough money to give me back the last 28 months.”
As part of the settlement, Ms. Lander was awarded an order of protection prohibiting the police officer, John Mangino, a 17-year police veteran who is still employed part-time by the village, from coming near her or her home. In addition, Quogue Village Police Chief Robert Coughlan and Lieutenant Chris Isola, both defendants in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, were required to send her a letter acknowledging that she was not at fault in the matter.
“Relative to the events involving P.O. John Mangino, you were in no way at fault,” the letter, dated September 13, 2012, states. “In fact, you were a victim of inappropriate behavior. It was never our intention either now or at that time to disparage or negatively reflect toward you or your duties as a jail attendant.”
Both Chief Coughlan and Lt. Isola declined to comment on the settlement this week, though Chief Coughlan said it was in no way an admission of fault or wrongdoing on his behalf. When asked if Officer Mangino is facing any disciplinary action as a result of his letter, Chief Coughlan said he could not comment.
Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius did not respond to repeated calls seeking comment.
Ms. Lander said she returned home over Memorial Day weekend in 2010 to find an explicit letter depicting a sexual fantasy titled “A Letter To Myself—About My Friend Charlotte,” signed by Officer Mangino and sitting on a bookshelf in her home, which she would keep unlocked. She brought the letter to the attention of Lt. Isola who, she said, dismissed it as a love letter and allegedly told her: “It’s not like he threatened to chop you up and put you in the microwave.”
On June 3, 2010, Lt. Isola sent a letter to Ms. Lander and Mr. Mangino that stated: “If this personal matter between you and Mangino interferes with either of your positions in the Police Department your jobs may be affected,” according to the lawsuit.
Ms. Lander said she quit her position as a jail attendant because the incident had created a hostile work environment, and she feared an encounter with Officer Mangino.
Prior to the incident, Ms. Lander said she was known among the village’s police officers as “Mama Charlotte,” and she often welcomed them into her home for hot meals and also baked cupcakes for them on their birthdays. Though she said she had never been intimately involved with him, Officer Mangino came to her home frequently in the afternoon, according to Ms. Lander. “I never thought of him as any different from anybody else,” she said. “They were like my kids. They were like my extended family.”
Officer Mangino, who did not respond to requests left at the police station seeking an interview, admitted to writing the letter and leaving it in Ms. Lander’s home, according to the lawsuit.
In November 2011, and following her repeated attempts to discuss the matter with the village and receive an order of protection, Ms. Lander said she filed a New York State Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Complaint against Quogue Village. She said the village had offered her varying sums of money, ranging from $500 to $2,500, to refrain from doing so. After the village failed to attend the mediation session with the agency scheduled for February 2011, Ms. Lander filed the lawsuit on the claim that she had been unfairly discriminated against.
“Never did I have to feel afraid in my house until this happened,” Ms. Lander said, adding that she did not intend to pursue the matter in court until her repeated requests for an order of protection against Officer Mangino were denied.
“I feel they owe it to me to say that they didn’t do the right thing,” she continued, “and that they apologized for the disparaging remarks, and that I was never at fault.”