Fairfax County Cops

Fairfax County Cops

Meriden police officer claims retaliation

MERIDEN - One of the officers alleging widespread favoritism and misconduct in the police department has notified the city that he plans to sue various members of the police department, Personnel Director Caroline Beitman and the police union over alleged harassment and retaliation against him.

In late March, officers Donald Huston and Brian Sullivan requested an investigation into allegations that certain officers, including Evan Cossette - the son of Police Chief Jeffry Cossette - were being inadequately disciplined for misconduct, including police brutality.

In the notice, filed by Attorney Frank P. Cannatelli of Wallingford on Huston's behalf, Huston claims that members of the department have created a hostile atmosphere, lodged false Internal Affairs claims against him and asked officers to withhold evidence that would support his allegations.

"They have used the police Internal Affairs Division to hurt Huston and other officers who have cooperated with official investigations, and have created a corrupt Internal Affairs Division that acts based upon favoritism, and nepotism," it reads.

The notice names Beitman, Jeffry and Evan Cossette, Deputy Chief Timothy Topulos, Capt. Michael Zakrzewski, former internal affairs officers Sgt. Leonard Caponigro and Lt. Glen Milslagle, police union President Det. Michael Siegler and chief union steward Det. John Williams.

Siegler, the union's president, said Huston was "a very desperate person."

"The investigation is coming to an end and he knows the outcome will not show what he claimed, therefore he's grasping at straws," Siegler said via email. "I hope the city doesn't settle this. They need to follow through and make him prove these false allegations. He's done enough damage here, he needs to move on."

The notice alleges various violations under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, including obstruction of justice, tampering with witnesses and "retaliation for cooperating with authorities to correct illegal police conduct."

Huston claims the police union instructed officers not to cooperate with investigations into incidents involving Pedro Temich and Robert Methvin, both of whom have filed federal lawsuits against Evan Cossette for allegedly beating them during arrests in 2010.

Numerous internal affairs complaints have been filed against Huston and Sullivan since their allegations became public last year, most of which have claimed they were untruthful or negligent in their duties as officers. Many of those complaints were filed after Williams, the union's chief steward, sent an email to members urging them to combat Huston and Sullivan's claims through internal affairs.

Williams also filed several grievances with the city claiming Huston and Sullivan were receiving preferential treatment in the wake of their allegations.

Associate City Attorney Jack Gorman said the city does not comment on pending litigation, but said he found it difficult to distinguish how the notice of intent to sue differed from the charges Huston made in his letter to the city last year.

"It makes a lot of broad general allegations. It's hard to perceive what he's alleging beyond things that he's already raised his complaints with," he said.

Cannatelli said Wednesday that he will file two more notices of pending suits against the city and the police department on behalf of two other officers over the next week, but would not identify the officers. He also said he plans to file a complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities on behalf of all three officers.

Prior to the new notice, Huston had been represented by New Britain attorney Sally A. Roberts, who is still serving as his counsel in a defamation of character suit against Chief Cossette. Roberts is also representing Temich, Methvin and Joseph Bryans, another man alleging he was brutalized by Evan Cossette, in federal lawsuits against the city and department.

Huston and the other parties named in the notice either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.