News coverage of lawsuit filed by Partner Nina Pirrotti: CCSU president releases statement on federal lawsuit filed by former campus police officer

Mar 21 2019

As it appeared on The Bristol Press

Written by Charles Paullin

NEW BRITAIN – An officer of the Central Connecticut State University Police Department has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging she was raped by a fellow officer and that her reports of the alleged incidents to her superiors were not investigated.

The 40-page lawsuit was filed by a “Jane Doe” on Tuesday with the United State District Court of Connecticut. It was filed against the university and members of the school’s police department, including Sgt. Ramon Baez, Lt. Edward Dercole, Lt. Christopher Cervoni, Chief Gregory Sneed and former Officer Curtis Lollar.

The lawsuit states the school chose to allow officers, with “red flags” in their backgrounds, and their supervisors to routinely make sexually graphic comments in the workplace about female students and their coworker.

The lawsuit says Lollar raped Doe three times, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges Lollar, Baez and Dercole were among officers who would make sexual comments to students, saying “Look at you. Look at that behind.”

Baez retaliated against Doe when she reported the harassment to superiors by taking away her partner in the department, the one officer with whom she felt safe, the lawsuit said.

Cervoni brushed off concerns by a student worker about Lollar following her and staring at her buttocks, the lawsuit said.

The school didn’t protect Doe from officers and supervisors who repeatedly touched her breasts and buttocks in the workplace, the lawsuit also states.

The lawsuit further alleges the school didn’t discipline the officers who created such an environment and did not properly investigate the acts after Doe reported them to superiors and the school’s Office of Diversity and Equity.

The lawsuit mentions a report by Shipman & Goodwin, which found that sexual misconduct and assault in the department’s hostile work environment was inevitable.

A report from Bernard Sullivan, CCSU’s assistant to the president for safety, said Sneed and university employees violated Title IX policy by failing to investigate Doe’s “very serious” allegations, according to the lawsuit. Title IX aims to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex within an educational organization that receives federal funding.

Because of how CCSU handled the situation, Doe said she suffered such severe mental and physical distress that she could no longer work, the lawsuit alleges. Doe went on unpaid family medical leave in July 2018.

The plaintiff is seeking from the defendants named in the case economic damages, compensatory damages, injunctive relief, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs and any other remedy that may appear to be just and proper.

President Zulma Toro, in a statement released to the media, said, “We are limited as to what we can share related to the pending lawsuit, but I do want to express my concern and surprise by some new sexual misconduct accusations against CCSU police officers. We are reviewing the new allegations and will promptly investigate them.

“There are other claims in the lawsuit that reiterate findings made by both our independent investigators and the review conducted by a law enforcement expert, and we took immediate action last fall to rectify many of them,” Toro continued. “The actions included the firing of Police Officer Curtis Lollar and changing the line of reporting of the police department to me.”

Toro said she also put new leadership in place in the Office of Diversity & Equity as the school moves forward to “reengineer” the office and the Office of Human Resources.

“Sexual harassment training was increased and new policies and procedures related to discipline and background checks were implemented,” Toro continued. “We also hired three new police officers, added staff, and increased the department’s budget.”

“As facts are confirmed, I will take immediate action to protect our students, our faculty, and the entire Central family,” Toro said.

The university is in the process of hiring an independent investigator to look into the new allegations, CCSU spokesperson Janice Palmer said Thursday. Except for Lollar, all defendants in the case are still employed with the university.

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