Matthews v. Department of Public Safety
Speech about alleged corruption and misconduct in the state police is of interest to the public and can be entitled to protection under Article First, §4 of the Connecticut Constitution. In 2004, the plaintiff officer, Andrew Matthews, allegedly discovered that the Connecticut State Police routinely covered up the misconduct of police officers that involved alcohol abuse, driving while intoxicated, suicidal conduct and domestic disputes. Sergeant Matthews contacted the Auditors of Public Accounts and the Office of the Attorney General. Afterward, Matthews allegedly received low ratings on a performance evaluation, he was transferred and assigned to work in a cubicle and he lost the opportunity to work overtime. Matthews allegedly became the subject of internal affairs and criminal investigations, without receipt of official notification. Matthews filed whistleblower retaliation complaints and alleged that he suffered emotional distress as a result of harassment, ostracism, threats and monitoring. Allegedly, although Matthews scored in the top 10 of a written exam for a promotion, he received all zeros from one interviewer on the oral exam, because the interviewer was furious that Matthews was a whistleblower. Matthews sued the Department of Public Safety, alleging violation of his free speech rights, to speak about matters of public concern, under the Connecticut Constitution. The defendant moved to strike, for failure to state a claim. Considered in the light most favorable to Matthews, allegations that he was transferred, subjected to internal and criminal investigations, not protected adequately from threats, not permitted to work overtime and received low marks on a performance appraisal, were sufficient to allege "discipline" under Connecticut General Statutes §31-51q. The Connecticut Constitution was created to protect a tolerant society with broad freedom of speech and is more protective of citizens' speech than the U.S. Constitution. Matthews' alleged speech involved a report about alleged corruption and misconduct in the Connecticut State Police. Speech about alleged abuse of authority is of interest to the public. Government criticism deserves protection under the Connecticut Constitution. Matthews sufficiently alleged that his speech merits protection under Article First, §4 of the Connecticut Constitution, and the court denied the defendant's motion to strike.