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Hempstead Town settles lawsuit with animal control officer

Hempstead Town Hall is seen in this undated

Hempstead Town Hall is seen in this undated photo. Credit: Ian J. Stark

A Hempstead animal control officer has reached a tentative $30,000 settlement with the town after she filed suit, alleging she was denied a promotion and harassed because she did not participate in the Republican Party.

Theresa Kohutka, 48, of East Northport filed a federal complaint against the town and town staff members Charles Milone, John Allback, Christine Reeke, Deborah Bove and Brian Braccio in 2011, seeking lost overtime wages and unspecified damages for alleged sexual harassment and abuse.

The case was set to go to trial Monday, before a settlement was reached this week. U.S. Eastern District Judge Arthur D. Spatt dismissed the case on Tuesday.

Kohutka's Garden-City based attorney, Steven A. Morelli, said conditions of the settlement were confidential, but it still had to be approved by the town board. Kohutka could not be reached for comment and remains employed by the town.

Town officials and the individual employees denied the claims in court documents prior to the settlement.

"For many years, the Town of Hempstead has given preferential treatment to its employees based on their political association and involvement," Kohutka's complaint stated. "Unlike other employees who continued to stay involved and donate money to the Republican Party, Theresa was unfairly denied promotions and other opportunities as a town employee."

Hempstead Town spokesman Mike Deery said the legal fees of taking the case to trial would have exceeded the settlement. He provided the $30,000 figure. "The town admits no fault or wrongdoing in the settlements," Deery said.

Kohutka has worked at the shelter since 1987 and took a supervisor test in a bid to be promoted in 2009.

Former Deputy Commissioner Charles Milone, who served on a committee for promotions, told Kohutka to become involved with the Republican Party, according to the complaint. She said she joined the party but stopped attending political meetings.

Kohutka received the highest score on the test but was passed over for a promotion in November 2010 to Bove, who received the second highest score, the complaint states.

The promotion gave Bove a $7,000 raise to a base pay of $90,000 in 2012 while Kohutka's salary was raised $3,000 to $82,120, payroll records show.

Kohutka said her supervisor, Allback, began to verbally abuse her with sexually explicit language, accused her of groping him and continued to harass her "in an attempt to make her look bad and get her fired," the complaint stated.She also accused town employees of conspiring to pass her over for overtime and was written up for yelling at Braccio, the night watchman.

Kohutka was suspended for three days in February 2011, following accusations that she punched another employee, Reeke, and sicced a dog on her. Kohutka said she believed she was suspended for complaining about overtime.


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