New Haven Officer Wins Claim For Back Wages
Swift then attempted to collect lost overtime pay for Maio for the 16 months he didn't work; that amounted to $62,000. However, Swift said the city of New Haven would not pay up. Although a jury found Maio not guilty of the criminal charges, city officials apparently had questions about his conduct.
In June 2010, Maio filed a civil lawsuit against the city based on a state statute that allows a police officer who has been criminally charged and then found not guilty to bring a claim for reimbursement for his economic losses during the underlying prosecution. The law requires that the officer prove that he was performing his duties when the alleged conduct occurred.
The city of New Haven argued that Maio acted outside the scope of his duties when he committed the specific actions that led to his arrest. The defense further argued that Maio was acting outside the scope of his employment by generally working inside the bar instead of outside the establishment.
Swift explained that a general rule of the New Haven Police Department, written in 1982, requires an officer on extra duty at a nightclub to stay outside and in the parking lot, where the goal is to prevent vandalism and other trouble. Swift, however, said the rule was outdated; he presented the testimony of a handful of other officers who also provided police presence inside bars, not just outside.
None of the testifying officers had been told that providing a police presence inside a bar was outside the scope of their duties. Further, Swift noted that Bar was paying $30,000 annually for police presence inside their establishment on weekends. Managers of the Bar testified that they would not have paid that much for an officer to be outside rather than inside.
"Nobody was enforcing this rule because it didn't make any sense," said Swift. "Then all of a sudden Anthony Maio comes along and [the New Haven Police Department's] got this rule."
Swift said the city was not interested in settling the case until the trial started in early August. The city offered $120,000 on the last day of the trial. By that point, Maio wasn't interested in settling.
Evidence presentation lasted a week before Judge Robin Wilson in New Haven Superior Court. The jury took about 2 1/2 hours before awarding all of the compensation Maio sought. He received roughly $62,000 in lost overtime pay and $124,107 in attorney fees and costs, totaling $187,256. Also, since the plaintiffs had previously filed an offer to compromise for $156,000, interest was added to the verdict award in the amount of $47,896.
The city of New Haven was represented at trial by Scott Karsten, of Karsten & Tallberg in West Hartford. Karsten has filed a motion to set aside the verdict. Karsten did not return calls for comment.
Swift said he did not expect a long appellate battle. "I don't think they have one single issue on appeal that has any merit," he said, adding that his client was happy with the jury's verdict.