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Black officers claim terms of civil rights suit ignored

A group of black Nassau County correction officers claimed Monday that officials have not lived up to the terms of a 1998 federal court consent decree dealing with a civil rights lawsuit against the county and the sheriff's office.

Attorneys for the Nassau County Sheriff Guardians filed a letter in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn Friday seeking unspecified monetary damages and compliance with the original decree.

Specifically, the letter said the sheriff's office has marginalized the role of a "special assistant to the sheriff for affirmative action," appointed under the decree to investigate and mediate bias incidents and to help with recruitment and community outreach. The letter also said that "instances of harassment and discrimination against African-American corrections officers continue to take place and individual correction officers are being forced to file complaints of their own."

A spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano said, "The county executive will ask the county attorney's office to look into the matter. Once again, the Mangano administration is left to clean up a legal mess left behind by his predecessor."

Acting Sheriff Michael Sposato, who has been in the position for two years said in a statement that "We have been in compliance with the consent order since 1998."

The Guardians and their supporters held a news conference Monday in the lobby of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola to demand the county live up to the terms of the consent decree. Under that decree, signed April 2, 1998, by U.S. District Court Judge Manuel Real, the county agreed to create the affirmative action officer post.

The decree settled a 1992 lawsuit alleging discrimination in hiring, and the unequal treatment of black employees, according to Darrin Green, president of the Nassau County Sheriff Guardians.

The county also agreed that the first affirmative action officer would be Stephen Brown, then the president of the Brothers of the Shield, the original name of what is now the Guardians. Brown had to resign his position with the fraternal group to take the new job, the decree said.

The county did not admit to any wrongdoing in the original lawsuit, but paid $5,000 each to three workers for "pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress."

It agreed to post job vacancies, but was not required to make any promotions. It also agreed to pay $84,500 in fees for the workers' attorneys.

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