Cheshire, Connecticut (May 22, 2015) – As per the New Haven Register, Meriden Superior Court Judge Corinne Klatt awarding former Cheshire Public Works employee, Richard Guerrera, $60,000 in a lawsuit that claimed Guerrera’s supervisor, Highway Superintendent Mark Cunningham, slandered him in a 2007 incident.
According to the Cheshire Patch, Cunningham was accused of slander when he called police to investigate what he considered a theft of a television at the Public Works garage where both he and Guerrera were employed. Guerrera claimed he took the television home because he considered it “rubbish.”
Someone’s personal possessions were stored at Cheshire’s Public Works garage after they were evicted from their home. Initially, the possessions were to be disposed of, and, under the impression this was the case, Guerrera took home a television set that was part of the contents.
At that time, Cheshire’s Public Works Department did not have a policy prohibiting employees from removing property set for disposal. (In January 2008, the town created such a policy.)
What Guerrera didn’t know was that Cunningham was negotiating with the owners of the property, who wanted their possessions returned.
Louis Zullo, Cheshire’s personnel director, said, “The question was whether (Public Works) employees were told not to take any of the contents from the eviction.”
As per the Connecticut Law Tribune, while Cunningham was negotiating with the evictees for the return of their property, he learned that some items had been removed from the garage by town employees. When he learned that Guerrera took the TV, he filed a complaint with the Cheshire Police Department without first talking to Guerrera. Officers investigated, but made no arrest. No disciplinary action was ever taken against Guerrera at work either.
Guerrera claimed he suffered physical and emotional stress because of the theft accusation. He had been told by his supervisors that if he were arrested for his actions, he would lose his job. He claims he was treated by a psychologist and a psychiatrist for anxiety and depression. He sued for slander.
After trial, Meriden Superior Court Judge Corinne Klatt said that by calling police, the supervisor was clearly making a theft accusation. And that, said Klatt, provided the necessary element in the slander claim:
“The court finds that [supervisor Cunningham] was aware of the practice of employees removing items designated as trash for their own use, that there was no written policy prohibiting this action, and he nevertheless reported the incident involving plaintiff to the police department as a theft,” the judge wrote. “The evidence established that there was no other logical explanation for the call to police.”
After the decision, Guerrera said he was fired from his job, allegedly for being careless in several instances. Guerrera has been out on workers’ compensation awaiting a knee replacement. He is now considering a wrongful termination lawsuit. “It smells kind of funny,” his lawyer, Jeremiah O’Connor, of Thompson, O’Connor & Associates, of Meriden, said of the termination.