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Court date set for harassment case against Huntington supervisor

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci has filed a

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci has filed a counterclaim to his former employee's sexual harassment lawsuit. Credit: Barry Sloan

The sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci is scheduled for its first court date, lawyers said.

Attorneys from each side will meet in State Supreme Court in Riverhead on Thursday for a preliminary conference to discuss discovery and deposition dates. 

Northport resident Brian Finnegan, 27, sued Lupinacci, a former state assemblyman, in December 2018 alleging his then-boss sexually harassed him and assaulted him in an Albany hotel room in 2017.

“Over the past year there has been further investigation into evidence that strengthens and corroborates Mr. Finnegan’s claims against Mr. Lupinacci,” said Finnegan's attorney Imran H. Ansari, of Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins P.C. “Armed with this evidence, we are seeking a court conference order so we may aggressively pursue discovery from Mr. Lupinacci and prosecute the claims Mr. Finnegan has made against him.”

In February 2019, Lupinacci filed a counterclaim denying all the allegations and sued for slander and defamation and is seeking $1 million in punitive damages.

“The case has laid dormant for nearly a year because the plaintiff has shown no interest in litigating it,” said Lupinacci’s attorney, Mary Ellen Donnelly of Putney, Twombly, Hall and Hirson LLP. “Mr. Lupinacci denies the allegations in the complaint in their entirety.  He has counterclaims against the plaintiff and intends to vigorously defend this matter, as he looks forward to being vindicated as soon as  possible.”

Finnegan worked for Lupinacci for three years while he represented District 10 in the Assembly. He said verbal harassment — in the form of inquiries about his sex life — began almost immediately after he started as a legislative aide and culminated when Lupinacci performed a sex act on him without his consent in 2017.

According to Finnegan’s lawsuit, on Dec. 5, 2017, Finnegan woke up "several times" between 2 and 5 a.m. in an Albany hotel room he was sharing with Lupinacci — with whom he traveled to help clean out his office — and saw him "standing and leaning over him."

Lupinacci told Finnegan they had to share a hotel room for budgetary reasons.

On some of those occasions, the lawsuit said, Finnegan woke to find Lupinacci, who had been "intoxicated" earlier in the night, touching the zipper of the suit pants in which he had fallen asleep. 

On Dec. 13, 2017, the two shared another hotel room while working in Albany. According to the lawsuit, Finnegan woke up in his hotel bed at about 2:30 a.m. and "noticed that his underwear and body parts were out of place." The suit alleges that Lupinacci performed a sex act on Finnegan.

Finnegan said he quit his job as Lupinacci's chief of staff days after the alleged assault and decided not to take a promised six-figure job as an executive assistant and senior adviser to Lupinacci, who had just been elected Huntington town supervisor. 

Ansari said any “pause” in the case was because his office continued to gather evidence to support Finnegan’s allegations.

“We particularly look forward to deposing Mr. Lupinacci and questioning him on his actions and confronting him with the evidence that corroborates Mr. Finnegan's claims," Ansari said.

Finnegan now works as the chief of staff at Todd Shapiro Associates, a Manhattan public relations firm whose clients include several local governments and private entities on Long Island. Finnegan is the nephew of former White House communications director Bill Shine.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, including back pay and benefits, alleging that Lupinacci engaged in "multiple incidents of unprofessional, abusive, sexual and offensive conduct."

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