Thomas Suozzi testifies in racial bias lawsuit

Tom Suozzi, candidate for Nassau County Executive, discusses

Tom Suozzi, candidate for Nassau County Executive, discusses Mangano administration borrowing at his office in Uniondale. (July 16, 2013) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

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Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi testified Tuesday in a federal trial that his administration did a thorough review of county discrimination policy after learning in 2002 that a public works department supervisor repeatedly used a racial slur to refer to a black employee.

Suozzi, named as a defendant in a $100 million federal suit against Nassau by former equipment operator Willie Warren, said the supervisor, Linda Alberti, was fired for using the epithet to describe Warren. Suozzi testified that he subsequently appointed minority employees to key positions in his administration and made the county's policy against racial and sexual discrimination clear to all county workers.

Warren's attorney, Frederick Brewington, then asked Suozzi whether all county employees then followed his new directive.

"I am sure some people did and I am sure some people didn't," Suozzi said.

A taped telephone conversation between Alberti and county employee Andrew J. Petti Jr. in which she used the slur was played for jurors in U.S. District Court Judge William F. Kuntz's courtroom in Brooklyn.

In 2003, Warren received $150,000, a promotion and a transfer to settle a claim of discrimination against the county.

Warren, 47, filed the federal suit against the county in 2006 alleging his civil rights were violated when racial discrimination and retaliation against him continued in his new job. Brewington said lug nuts on Warren's work truck were loosened and a hangman's noose was found at the garage where Warren worked. When Warren applied for a promotion "multiple" times, he was denied, Brewington said.

Paul F. Millus, an attorney for Nassau, said there is no evidence for Warren's assertion that someone tampered with his truck. Warren applied for disability in 2005, which would have taken him out of the running for a promotion, Millus said. After another supervisor, Doug Cucci, died, Warren complained that he had also used a racial slur.

"He's manipulating the system," Millus said.

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