Suit accusing mayor of sexual harassment shifted to federal courts

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR‘

The sexual harassment suit filed by a city employee against the mayor and several city officials has been moved to federal court.

The move to pull the case out of the Superior Court in New Britain and relocate it to the federal court in Hartford came at the request of the defendants. The motion to move the case was made July 5 and granted the same day, according to the state’s website www.ct.gov.

The lawsuit, filed by city legal secretary Noelle Bates, seeks more than $15,000 in damages against the defendants. The defendants, besides the mayor, include the City of Bristol; Diane Ferguson, the personnel director of the city; Edward Krawiecki, the city’s corporation counsel; and Cindy Cockayne Lamarre, a member of the city’s zoning commission.

The removal notice by the defendants cites U.S. Code § 1331 as one of the reasons the suit can be moved to federal court, “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”

The suit filed by Bates claims that since April 2011, the city worker has been “repeatedly subjected to a sexually hostile and discriminatory working environment.”

In particular, the suit claims Cockayne made sexual advances, requested favors, engaged in conduct of a sexual nature toward the plaintiff, and sexually harassed Bates.

After the suit was filed, Cockayne issued a statement refuting the claims of the suit. Additionally, noting that Bates’s attorney Kate Matthews is vice chair of the Democratic Town Committee, Cockayne stated, “I believe this is politics at its worst.”

There is no indication on the district court website, as of July 6, as to when the federal court will hear the case.

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