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Gerratana Attorney Files FOIA Complaint Against City

Claiming members of the Civil Service Commission did not take a formal vote, the firm of Livingston, Adler, Pulda, Meiklejohn and Kelly of Hartford has officially filed a Freedom of Information complaint.

The complaint was filed in October, but City officials said at the November meeting that it had not received the complaint.

“The FOI complaint may or may not have been filed (we haven’t received anything yet),” said City Attorney Gennaro Bizzarro at that time.

The firm represents Jessica Gerratana and involves a complaint against Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Bielinski that she helped Gerratana – a niece by marriage – get a job as Council Secretary. The Civil Service Commission decided that Bielinski should be removed from her job and fined $2,500. It also decided Gerratana should be removed and a new posting should be placed for the position.

According to the attorneys for Gerratana the complaint states that, “at the end of the meeting the commission voted to go into executive session purportedly to discuss the complaint and the evidence presented to the commission. At the conclusion of the executive session the Commission reconvened its regular meeting. Upon the reconvening of the regular meeting, the Commission’s Chairperson (Tony Cane) announced the Commission had reached a majority decision with respect to the complaint and then announced its decision. The Commission failed to make its decision in the public portion of the meeting and failed to vote on a proposed recommendation in the public portion of the meeting.”

The attorney’s claim that by making the decision in executive session, the Commission violated Gerratana’s rights. The attorney’s asked that the decision therefore be ruled as null and void.

During a Nov. 3 Commission meeting, Bizzaro said in a letter that he reviewed the tape and said that indeed the Commission did make the vote in public and not in executive decision.

Bizzaro said this complaint would not be an issue.

At that meeting Bizzaro announced that the City hired an outside attorney for the Civil Service Commission to clarify issues regarding their decision.

“This is complicated and involves a review of not only current Charter but also previous Charters and also state statutes, ordinances, and rules to figure out how they all fit together,” said Bizzarro. “It’s a map that needs to be deciphered.”

After hearing testimony for over a month, the Civil Service Commission in October made their recommendation on the complaint filed by Alderman Lou Salvio.

Testimony from a recording and an affidavit from of Pattie Lewis, who applied for the job and was the number 1 ranked candidate, said she withdrew “because Bielinski told me I was overqualified. I knew I was not going to have a chance of being appointed.”

Bielinski claimed she said “More than qualified” and that the two have different meanings.

Lewis went on to say in the affidavit that “in the beginning I believed Ms. Bielinski had my best interests at heart because she thought I was over qualified, the job was beneath me and there would be a better opportunity at a later date in the Finance Department.”

Lewis’ recording came from an Ethics Commission complaint.

A second candidate also withdrew after speaking to Bielinski.

Alderman Willie Pabon said that only Gerratana was originally interviewed and he requested more people be brought in. After that, two more people were interviewed at another date.

Other evidence included that Personnel Director Karen Levine said she spoke with former Council Secretary Judy Carroll who said that Gerratana and her husband Greg had come in to see the office prior to the job being posted to check the place out to the extent that it almost appeared that they “were measuring for curtains.”

Caroll chose not to testify formally.

Gerratana said that was not true. She said she was outside the office once and met Carroll for 5 minutes.

The recommendation was sent to corporation counsel who needs to respond to it by Dec. 1.