September 30, 2014

Settlement Agreement Resolves Long-Running Labor Dispute with Former Essex Police Officer

ESSEX— A settlement agreement approved last month by the board of selectmen and the retirement committee has resolved a long-running labor dispute with former town police officer Salvatore Bevilacqua.

The “general release and settlement agreement,”  that was signed by the parties in early November was approved by the board of selectmen on Dec. 3, and the retirement committee on Dec. 11. The Essex Police Union, Local 660, International Brotherhood of Police Officers is also a party to the agreement.

The settlement is intended to resolve disputes that began after Bevilacqua, formerly of Deep River, went on medical leave in the fall of 2010. Bevilacqua did not return to duty, and was eventually dismissed by First Selectman Norman Needleman last spring after he was unable to return to work. But the settlement document specifies that Bevilacqua “retired from employment with the town,” on April 27, 2012.

In the preceding months, Bevilacqua, often in consultation with a union representative, had filed a series of grievances under the police contract. He eventually filed formal complaints with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration.

Some of the grievances and complaints predated the November 2011 town election, when Needelman, a Democrat, was elected to succeed former Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller, who is now a state representative. Needleman served on the board of selectmen with Miller. While no lawsuit was filed, language in the settlement agreement indicates Bevilacqua may have been preparing to file a state and or federal lawsuits against the town over unspecified issues related to his employment and medical leave.

But under the settlement agreement, Bevilacqua agreed to withdraw all pending complaints, and not to pursue any future legal actions against the town, current or former elected officials, or the Essex Police Union. As part of the settlement, Bevilacqua received a one time payment from the town of $9,900, an amount that is below the threshold where a town meeting vote would be required to approve the appropriation.

Bevilacqua, who was hired as a town police officer in the summer of 2007 after training at the Connecticut Police Academy in Meriden, will also receive a pension benefit of $1,200 per month, beginning in November 2012. The monthly payment is not subject to cost of living adjustments. Meeting minutes for the board of selectmen and retirement committee indicate the pension payment is related to a disability claim. Bevilacqua will not receive, and has agreed not to seek, any reimbursement from the town for any legal expenses incurred during the disputes.

Needleman said last week he recommended approval of the settlement based on advice from the town’s labor lawyer, Nicholas Grello with the Hartford firm of Siegal, O’Connor, O’Donnell & Beck. Needleman said the settlement would allow the town to avoid the threat of further costly litigation with Bevilacqua.