The former chairwoman of East Hampton’s Town Council has filed a federal lawsuit against acting police Chief Matthew Reimondo, former Sgt. Garritt Kelly and the town, alleging 10 combined counts of constitutional violations by the three.
part of that time as chairwoman, says in her federal filing that Reimondo, Kelly and the town violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and that Reimondo sought a “malicious prosecution” against after she sought to eliminate the chief’s position and restructure the police department to save the town money.
Engel alleges in her lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven on Tuesday, March 12, that Reimondo, Kelly and the town violated her rights of free speech and assembly by by refusing to provide police protection to quell disruptions at Town Council meetings and by allowing trespassers to enter her property.
Engel’s family owns the Markham Meadows Campground in East Hampton, though her lawsuit does not specify the incident involving trespassers and the police department.
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Her other allegations relate to a long-running dispute involving some current and former town officials in East Hampton, the police department and, in particular, Chief Reimondo.
Reimondo and Kelly accepted an early retirement offer from the town in January. While Kelly is no longer on the force, Reimondo was rehired as the acting chief while the town seeks his replacement.
Reimondo and Engel on Sunday could not be reached for comment.
Engel was among a group of local officials who sought to eliminate the chief’s job and restructure the department about three years ago in an attempt to cut costs. After then-Town Manager Jeffery O’Keefe formerly proposed the initiative, he became the subject of an investigation of sexual harassment complaints by several female town workers, complaints that Reimondo brought forward on the women’s behalf.
The complaints were eventually dismissed and O’Keefe left his job here under pressure in September of 2010 after reaching a settlement agreement with the town. He was paid $170,000 for leaving his job early.
At the same time, Reimondo’s supporters undertook a fierce political battle to save the chief’s position. They filed petitions for a referendum that saw voters overwhelmingly turn out to support the chief in November of 2010.
Following that vote, Kelly, Reimondo’s right-hand officer in the department, filed a state elections complaint against Engel, alleging she misused absentee ballots in the referendum.
The state’s Elections Enforcement Commission found no wrongdoing in the issue and Engel subsequently filed a complaint against Kelly and Reimondo alleging that the SEEC filing was retaliation against her. A third-party investigation commissioned by the town found that the investigation by Kelly into Engel’s handling of absentee ballots was flawed and that Reimondo failed to adequately supervisor his second-in-command. However, the report also found no evidence that the department's Code of Ethics were violated or that the department’s brass violated policy regarding Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer.
The town took no disciplinary action against either Reimondo or Kelly.
Engel, however, alleges in her lawsuit that Kelly and Reimondo’s behavior violated her constitutional rights.
“The actual harassment, intimidation and malicious prosecution by the Defendants against the Plaintiff was in violation of the Plaintiff's right to free expression and assembly under the law has caused and will continue to cause the Plaintiff irreparable harm due to actual and threatened deprivation of her constitutional rights,” the lawsuit states.
“The defendants intended to inflict severe emotional distress, or in the alternative, knew or should have known that their actions would inflict severe emotional distress. The conduct of the defendants was extreme and outrageous.
The plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer severe emotional distress. The defendants' conduct was the direct and proximate cause of the Plaintiffs distress.”
Her lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages against Kelly, Reimondo and the town.
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