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Morris sues Norwalk, alleging discrimination and invasion of privacy

State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) leads the June District B Democrats meeting in Calvary Baptist Church.

Updated, 6:15 p.m.: Comment from Mike Lyons, clarification about mayoral endorsement process.  

NORWALK, Conn. — One of Norwalk’s mayoral candidates is suing the city, its Board of Education and its school district.

State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) alleges in his complaint to Connecticut Superior Court, filed June 15, that he has been discriminated against because of his race, because he is a state legislator and in retaliation for opposing discriminatory employment practices. He also alleges invasion of privacy.

The discrimination charges Morris is pursuing are largely the same ones he made to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). Those complaints was released by CHRO on March 30, and Morris has made the 90-day deadline to begin a lawsuit.

The accusation of invasion of privacy charge stems from Norwalk Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr’s release of a copy of the CHRO complaint to NancyOnNorwalk.

Morris has filed papers to run for mayor The Democratic Town Committee will endorse a mayoral candidate on July 20. Should that be Mayor Harry Rilling, Morris could challenge Rilling’s re-election via a Democratic primary in September.

The discrimination that Morris says he has been subjected to include his position being downgraded after his hiring in November 1998, from being a Superintendent’s cabinet position giving input at weekly meetings to being excluded from those meetings in 2005.

Morris claims that he was set up for failure, as his staff was reduced until he was the only department head without employees.

In 2006, NPS moved African-American employees to a secluded area of the department, essentially segregating them, the complaint states.

In July 2012, Morris’ pay was reduced, although “similarly situated Caucasian” employees’ pay went up, the complaint states.

Morris’s position changed from human relations director to school climate coordinator just last year. He asked for but did not receive a job description, the complaint states.

When Morris was elected to the General Assembly in 2006, he was asked to reimburse NPS for “various expenses, including training for and employment of temporary District employees,” to do his work for him if he was unable to get it done because of his responsibilities in Hartford, but Morris refused, the complaint states.

The complaint claims that the school district did not request other similarly situated employees to pay expenses for their time out of work.

From October 2015 to May 2016, NPS had no one “responsible for or actively working on issues of affirmative action or diversity for the District,” the complaint states.

NPS attempted to tarnish Morris’ reputation, telling an employee that he was not qualified to supervise her, although he had been her supervisor for several years, the complaint states.

Before Morris filed his CHRO complaint, Morris met with Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski and was told that Adamowski was looking to cut costs, the complaint states. Adamowski informally asked Morris to review a retirement package but didn’t tell him that his position was under consideration for elimination or that it would be eliminated if he didn’t take the package, according to the lawsuit.

In June 2016, Adamowski offered Morris a retirement package contingent upon Morris dismissing without prejudice charges of discrimination and legal claims, the lawsuit claims, further explaining that Morris refused, and was told one week later that his job would be eliminated if he didn’t take the package.

He again refused and was terminated on June 30, 2016, the lawsuit claims.

Regarding the invasion of privacy charge, the lawsuit states, “unlike public filings in the State Judicial system, the CHRO keeps any and all filings confidential and any requests for the release of said information are subject to the rules and regulations set forth in the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.”

The lawsuit states:

  • “During the course of the CHRO investigations, Plaintiff and Defendants engaged in settlement discussions. One set of discussions was pursuant to the rules and regulations of the CHRO. Another set of discussions was commenced privately between the parties.
  • “The private settlement discussions were mediated by Mayor Rilling.
  • “It was agreed by all parties (including Mayor Rilling) that the settlement discussions would remain confidential.
  • “The settlement discussions mediated by the CHRO were also confidential.
  • “Defendants knew or should have known of the confidential nature of all settlement discussions.
  • “The context and content of the settlement discussions were highly sensitive and geared towards reaching a mutually-agreeable conclusion to the aforementioned claims brought by the Plaintiff.
  • “Despite reasonable and genuine efforts by the Plaintiff to engage in constructive dialogue, Defendants refused to participate in any meaningful way. As a result, settlement discussions ceased.
  • “Thereafter, and despite their confidential nature, Defendants intentionally publicized Plaintiffs settlement discussions, as well as correspondence from Plaintiffs counsel as it related to those discussions, to the public. The publication was thereafter posted on an internet blog and became accessible to anyone, world-wide.
  • “The publication of these private, confidential discussions are highly offensive.”

That Spahr’s response to the CHRO complaint was also released to NancyOnNorwalk is also an invasion of privacy, the lawsuit alleges:

  • “Defendants’ Response to Plaintiffs Charges of Discrimination provides a one-sided interpretation of the settlement discussions which took place between Plaintiff and Defendants and specifically leads the reader to believe that Defendants, at all times, acted reasonably and in good faith while Plaintiff was, at all times, unreasonable. This interpretation is contrary to reality.
  • “As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ publication of the Response, Plaintiff has been placed in an objectionable false light in that he acted in a way other than reasonable during the aforementioned settlement discussions.
  • “By the aforesaid actions, Defendants have violated the common law tort of invasion of privacy by intentionally placing Plaintiff in a false light.
  • “Plaintiff was damaged as a proximate result of Defendants’ intentional conduct.”

 

Spahr, in his response to the CHRO complaint, called the CHRO compliant “a naked attempt to leverage or force the District into paying more for his retirement package than what he would have been entitled to receive under the terms of the pension plan.”

“It is clear that the Complainant had calculated that by filing these false claims he would be able to squeeze more compensation out of the District,” Spahr wrote.

According to Spahr’s reponse to CHRO, Morris asked to have his salary increased retroactively so that his pension would be higher. Spahr produced a letter from Morris’ attorney, Daniel Angelone, requesting that Morris stay on as a consultant for three years after his retirement.

The discrimination charge is “as offensive as it is false,” Spahr wrote, listing the number of African American administrators hired by the current Board of Education. Nine of 19 principals are African American and the “Norwalk Early College Academy Director, a Special Education Administrator the Chief Talent Officer, and the Chief Academic Officer are all African­ American/Black,” Spahr wrote.

Mayor Harry Rilling attempted to negotiate with Morris, and an additional payment of $20,000 was pledged, but, again, the offer was rejected, Spahr wrote.

“The Complainant’s effort does not represent an honest attempt to resolve a valid claim of discrimination. Instead, this is an attempted shakedown being perpetrated by the Complainant in order to feather his own nest and to boost his retirement package at the expense of the Norwalk taxpayers. Shameful,” Spahr wrote.

The lawsuit asks the court to order the city, the BoE and Norwalk Public Schools to make Morris whole, pay his costs and punitive and compensatory damages.

“I am confident that we will prevail in this case, as we would have had the matters stayed in the CHRO (we were ready to proceed with the CHRO hearing when Mr. Morris asked for the release),” BoE Chairman Mike Lyons said Friday in an email. “The evidence is clear that the present Board has been anything but discriminatory, as we have hired a large number of African-American administrators, including in critical positions like Chief Academic Officer, HR Director and principalships; Mr. Morris’s claims in that regard are flatly false.  There is also the problem (for Mr. Morris) that claims like these have a very short (6-month) statute of limitations; he’s going to have a lot of trouble sustaining claims all the way back to 2005 when their limitations periods ran out twelve years ago.  Since this is in litigation I won’t have any other comments to make, but these points are appropriate to make at the outset to put this complaint in context.”

Morris vs Norwalk 17-0615

spahr-response-to-chro-morris

Angelone letter; further Spahr response

15 comments

Concerned July 7, 2017 at 7:34 am

Can Norwalk start to counter sue for these waste of time lawsuits that only accomplish to waste the valuable time and money of an already overstretched budget and central office?

Dawn July 7, 2017 at 8:00 am

The complaint doesn’t say anything reported is untrue. Voters beware. ITS ALL TRUE. Do not vote for this con artist.

Patrick Cooper July 7, 2017 at 11:40 am

Interesting move. I’m trying to recall a similar political strategy – but I can’t. Show your leadership qualities and coalition building skills to your current constituents and those “other” tax-paying voters you need to become mayor by proclaiming “I’m a victim”. Bold.

The only thing to fear is a zip-lock order by the proceeding judge. Because then, all the dirty laundry will be washed in the dark. But if the light can shine, then Bruce is taking a calculated gamble when all of Norwalk is exposed to his shenanigans – the no-show publicly funded job, the total absence of accountability, the record of zero accomplishment, etc.

Bruce has only one friend – voter apathy. Norwalk, a town of over 85,000 – with likely another 30,000 residents not on the census – in 2015 voted about 3,584 for Harry, 2,399 for Straniti – so we managed about 6,000 ballots. Given Bruce has pulled almost 6,000 from DA #140, you { … } could come up with successful math. It should be interesting how effective Bruce’s finger pointing claims of racism will play with our residents who claim European, Asian, Russian, South & Central American, even Native American heritage.

This act is just Mosby 2.0. Race-baiting to siphon off a slice of the community to stick-up for “one of our own”. Loser Norwalk taxpayers once again are on the hook for the cost of defending frivolous lawsuits coming from individuals who never had a private sector job in their lives – entitlement always paid for by taxpayers – a pig trough with an endless supply of slop. The only immediate winner? Harry, of course.

Editor’s note: This comment has been edited to remove an ambiguous statement which some readers have interpreted as racially offensive.

huh? July 7, 2017 at 11:50 am

How did Bruce get his no-show job to begin with?

Seriously… how could he have been an effective resource officer when he as a resource was never available during school hours?

It really doesn’t get any more complicated than my previous statement.

You had an individual that was hired to “do a job” (I’ll use that term lightly) yet was “in Hartford handling his legislative duties” (I’ll use that term lightly as well).

He was then fired from his job because the superintendent knew that the role was B.S. and the individual in the role was never around…except when he would check in at West Rocks where Lynne Moore would cover for him.

Thank you, Dr. Adamowski for not allowing his charade of a position to continue.

Morris is for us? Yeah right…. He’s been out for self since day one.

Here we go again! July 7, 2017 at 12:19 pm

@huh? WELL SAID!! and I’m sure there is a heck a lot more he did to negatively impact the city that we don’t even know about yet.

Rick July 7, 2017 at 1:04 pm

@Ryan Im not taking sides,I respect you and your posting and not seeking to challenge it , but what about the Mayor we have now?

Danny July 7, 2017 at 1:49 pm

This guy can’t expect to actually put his name on signs and place them on lawns in Norwalk, can he? Does he think people would actually vote for him, after suing the very city he is seeking the highest office?

If he does, he will only prove his incompetence and anyone who is seen at his rallies will be seen as delusional.

Wait, I actually encourage this concept. I want to see who supports this man! I need to know who they are!

God, I love living in this City! It’s better than watching Cable TV!

cc-rider July 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm

It is says a lot when a settlement of 20k by our current mayor is laughed at by Morris. Harry Rilling should be roasted for offering that much coin. Bruce should thank his lucky stars for the every day on the job he had with the BOE. Not one reader of NON has the luxury of a part time gig with that sort of pay and benefits.

Brenda Penn-Williams July 8, 2017 at 1:23 pm

Patrick Cooper please define
“NAACP crayons””

Brenda Penn-Williams,
NAACP President

Concerned July 8, 2017 at 8:30 pm

Romans 8:31King James Version (KJV)

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us (him), who can be against us (him)? Well see…

Patrick Cooper July 9, 2017 at 12:18 pm

On principle I rarely reply to defend or explain my comments. But clearly “some” took exception to my choice of phrasing – ironic the editor’s note removes the very phase that’s quoted below with an explanation requested.

My point was Mr. Morris has a “path to victory”. The intent behind use of the Association was to tie his core political base to numbers supporting that contention. The calculation was beyond simple – last time Riling and Morris ran each received “X” votes – and Bruce received more. Nate Silver it’s not. This “elementary” analysis is behind the choice of “crayon” – the most basic (elementary) writing tool in our vernacular.

Since we are on to explanations – what exactly is a “true Democrat?”

Mathew 24:24 – “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect”

Sad July 10, 2017 at 3:30 pm

The sad thing here is that this suit is all about money and not about racial equality.

If the dollar amount/package offered were higher in value, he would have taken it.

Pathetic.

John Hamlin July 11, 2017 at 8:03 am

Wow. I don’t subscribe to Nancy on Norwalk since I moved out of town a couple of years ago. But a CTNewsJunkie link took me to this article. Wow. I miss Nancy on Norwalk — always great reporting — I wish Nancy covered the whole state. Great story Nancy. (Interesting that the rest of the state is reading about Norwalk through this story.)

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

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Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.