Freeport reverse discrimination ruling upheld

A federal jury has awarded $1.35 million to

A federal jury has awarded $1.35 million to a white Freeport police lieutenant who sued the village for racial discrimination after it awarded the police chief's job to a Hispanic officer with fewer academic qualifications and a lower test score. Photo Credit: News 12 Long Island, File

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A Freeport police lieutenant awarded $1.35 million in a federal reverse discrimination suit against the village has had the decision upheld.

U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt also ordered additional fees of $661,139 for the attorney of Lt. Christopher Barrella, a white Freeport police officer who sued the village after it awarded the police chief's job to a Hispanic officer with fewer academic qualifications and a lower score on the chief's test.

In the decision made Thursday, Spatt also ordered prejudgment interest on the $150,000 in back pay and on $26,612.42 in costs, both compounded annually from Aug. 1, 2012, to the court decision date, May 30, 2014. He also ordered post judgment interest on back pay and costs, from the decision date under the same rules. All payments will be compounded annually until paid off, except on the attorney's fees, on which interest was denied.

Howard Colton, Village of Freeport attorney, said in a statement: "The matter is currently on appeal, and we are constrained to comment further."

Former Mayor Andrew Hardwick, who is black, was a defendant. He was ordered to pay $200,000 for his involvement in the discrimination.

Hardwick, in a phone interview, said, "This case is being appealed."

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Barrella, who is still on the job, had charged in court papers that Hardwick, upon being sworn in as mayor, "immediately began terminating and demoting qualified, experienced Non-Hispanic whites and replacing them with less qualified and less experienced Hispanic and Black employees."

Miguel Bermudez, 55, had four more years on the job in Freeport than Barrella, but no college. Barrella has two college degrees. Barrella also scored highest on the test for chief. Bermudez, who had been a fellow firefighter with Hardwick for many years in Freeport, came in third.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount awarded in attorney's fees to Freeport police lieutenant Christopher Barrella.

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