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Minahan files $850,000 lawsuit against town of East Longmeadow

Date: 1/17/2013

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — Former town employee Rosalind Minahan has filed a lawsuit against the town of East Longmeadow and several individuals involved in town government, seeking $850,000 in damages.

Among the 14 civil charges brought forward by Minahan and her attorney, David Ashworth, in U.S. District Court on Nov. 21, 2012 are wrongful termination — breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, age discrimination, disability discrimination, discriminatory retaliation, disparate treatment, discriminatory harassment/hostile work environment and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Minahan, who worked for the town for 20 years, was allegedly fired from her position on April 1, 2011.

According to court documents obtained by Reminder Publications, she claims that she faced harassment, discrimination and unfair treatment from Town Administrator Nick Breault, the Board of Selectmen — then consisting of Paul Federici, James Driscoll and Enrico "Jack" Villamaino — Kathleen Tranghese of K&D Human Resources — with whom the town contracted its human resources services — Town Accountant Thomas Caliento and Planning Director Robyn Macdonald.

Minahan alleges that she was repeatedly denied a pay raise she felt she deserved, received a harassing letter from Macdonald, was retaliated against via suspension when she pursued evidence to uncover who was behind the letter, and was unjustly fired for taking disability leave for which she claims she was previously approved.

Minahan, the wife of Senior East Longmeadow Firefighter Shawn Minahan, has an unlisted phone number and a message left for Ashworth was not returned as of this writing.

Paul Federici, the lone remaining member of the Board of Selectmen from that period, declined to comment about pending legal issues. Breault and Mcdonald both referred all questions to Patricia Rapinchuk of Robinson Donovan P.C., who is representing the town in the matter. Rapinchuk was not immediately available for comment and did not return a message left requesting comment.

The suit charges that the Board of Selectmen and several others, including Breault, Caliento and Kathleen Tranghese opposed Minahan's requests for a position re-grade due to increased responsibilities through a series of events, including "misrepresentations, discriminatory animus, violation of due process, harassment, animosity, and acrimony" against her.

Court documents state that Minahan was originally denied a re-grade in February 2010 after she and and Assistant Town Accountant Olga Bones filed a request in November 2009.

It was Minahan's opinion that, having recently received additional work responsibilities, she should have been moved to a Grade 10 pay scale, one step above her Grade 8 status.

A Board of Selectmen executive session took place on Dec. 15, 2009 at which Caliento allegedly discussed Minahan's new duties and shifts in responsibility. He reportedly said the salary increases were approved in the fiscal year 2012 budget and the increase in Minahan's duties included being trained to use the MUNIS town management software, cross training between Payroll Administration and Assistant Town Accountant, acting as bookkeeper for other departments and added transactions and analytics, among other things, but according to the court documents, no action was taken on the re-grade.

On Feb. 4, 2010, Minahan filed a grievance, stating that she was given no valid reasons for not receiving the upgrade. While the issue was scheduled to be discussed at a Feb. 23, 2010 meeting, Minahan received a letter on Feb. 9, stating a re-grade was denied, because the union agreement "did not contemplate gradual changes in jobs over many years" and the Board of Selectmen falsely stated that that no response to Minahan's request was presented by Caliento.

"[Minahan] contends all of the informational requirements had been met and confirmed in writing by her, Olga Bones and [Caliento], and she and Olga were disparately treated [and] retaliated against for exercising her rights," the suit reads, adding that the request was not considered in a timely fashion, also in retaliation.

In addition to the refusal to grant her a raise in salary, Minahan alleges that on April 21, 2010, she received a letter from an anonymous source, with, "Roz in Accounting, Personal and Confidential," handwritten on the envelope and on April 22, she read the enclosed typed letter that she said was "harassing, sexually harassing in its comments." She alerted Caliento and she was told an investigation would commence, the suit states.

Believing she recognized the handwriting on the envelope as Macdonald's, that day Minahan went to Tranghese, who authorized her to copy a redacted version of Macdonald's IRS Form W-4 form and take it to the police.

At some point, Breault called Macdonald into his office regarding the issue, however, when that meeting took place is not clear. According the Minahan, the interview took place on April 22, 2010; however, Breault stated that he was not made aware of the situation until April 27, 2010.

A police report was filed on April 22, 2010 and on April 24, 2010, East Longmeadow Sgt. Richard Bates received the copy of the W-4, which was redacted only to include the Macdonald's handwritten name and current address, which was to be used to compare with the handwriting on the envelope.

On April 27, 2010, Police Chief Douglas Mellis met with Minahan and "agreed that the handwriting matched, and that she was being harassed," according to court documents. At that time, he suggested she notify the town of a hostile work environment.

The next day, according to the suit, Tranghese brought Minahan into her office and informed her that her actions on April 22, 2010 were in violation of privacy laws. She also denied any knowledge of or involvement in Minahan's actions.

Tranghese, the Board of Selectmen, Breault and Caliento later told her that Macdonald was deciding whether to press criminal charges.

Minahan alleges that during these discussions, she said that Tranghese, Breault, the selectmen and the East Longmeadow Police Department had known that Minahan had taken the W-4 to the police since April 24,2010, at which time Tranghese "violently and inappropriately screamed in [Minahan's] face that she had no such knowledge."

Minahan was suspended for two days without pay.

Minahan filed a complaint opposing the suspension, which was discussed at an Executive Session Hearing on June 1, 2010. However, at the session, Minahan's personnel file, which was requested, was "lost and/or not available to be reviewed at the session" and the Board of Selectmen voted not to alter or rescind the suspension.

Minahan then filed a grievance form on June 23, 2010 and at a July 26, 2010 hearing, one of the parties involved, unnamed in the suit, indicated that the suspension may not have been warranted, but Minahan was given no relief.

The suit also alleges that discrimination continued throughout her employment, including the events that led to her termination.

The suit alleges that the hostile work environment and harassment she sustained caused "severe depression, anxiety and other serious physical manifestations of severe emotional distress" and she was out of work starting on Dec. 17, 2010.

When requested, she sent a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) form and a note from her doctor to the town on Jan. 31, 2011, seeking leave until April 4, 2011, to Corinne Tranghese, East Longmeadow benefits administrator.

The doctor's note "generally states that due to stress at work, [Minahan] is unable to return to work until April 4, 2011."

The suit reads, "[Minahan] alleges that she had called Corinne Tranghese in December 2010 and in January 2011 and had communicated and inquired as to a medical leave of absence," adding that the doctor's note she provided was approved and she was permitted to take accrued time and any unpaid time until April 4, 2010. It also alleges that Corinne Tranghese wrote a letter on Feb. 11, 2011 stating that Minahan's out of work status was extended to April 4, 2011.

Court documents state that on March 28, 2011, Minahan received mail that stated she was given leave that was scheduled to end on March 11, 2011. Enclosed was an FMLA form dated Feb. 10, 2011.

On March 29, she received a letter from Breault stating that she had failed to report for work and failed to provide the town with medical documentation and because of that, the selectmen were considering her termination and would host a hearing on April 1, 2011. Caliento also docked her three hours' worth of pay for missing time on Dec. 17 when not authorized.

Minahan stated through court documents that she was still on leave at the time of the April 1, 2011 hearing and was not properly notified and because of that, she was unable to prepare a defense and could not appear at the hearing and she was subsequently fired.