Kent firing trial to begin soon

(Original publication: February 4, 2003)

A federal lawsuit brought by a former Kent employee who claims he was fired last May after refusing to lie in a state investigation involving a town judge is expected to go to trial in three weeks.

Vincent Pasquantonio, Supervisor Annmarie Baisley's former assistant, filed his lawsuit in May against Kent, the supervisor, two Town Board members and Town Justice Joseph Esposito. According to the suit, Pasquantonio was fired from his $33,860-a-year job after he testified before the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The commission, according to town officials and the lawsuit, was investigating accusations that Esposito tried to have the assessment on former Town Justice James Dove's home increased. Pasquantonio said he witnessed attempts by Baisley and Esposito to coerce the town assessor to raise Dove's assessment.

"It's definitely based on First Amendment claims," said Jane Gould, Pasquantonio's White Plains-based lawyer.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Feb. 24 and the trial should start the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Fox in U.S. District Court in White Plains, Gould said. Councilman Louis Tartaro and Councilwoman Kathy Doherty have been dropped from the suit by Gould.

James A. Randazzo of White Plains, who is representing the town and its officials, disagreed with Gould's free-speech assertion.

"It's nothing more than a garden-variety employee termination case," Randazzo said.

Meanwhile, the judicial conduct commission has subpoenaed several town officials to testify, including Baisley, Pasquantonio, Esposito and Town Assessor Christopher Boryk. The oversight body won't comment on an investigation or even if one is taking place. Jonathan Lovett, Gould's law partner, has said he submitted deposition transcripts from the Pasquantonio lawsuit to the judicial commission.

The depositions were given by several current and former town officials and employees during September and October. Several witnesses described Baisley, a Republican, as difficult to work for. Other testimony portrayed Baisley as appearing intoxicated while on the job and occasionally irrational. Pasquantonio's lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, accuses Baisley of mismanaging the town "from time to time while in a drunken stupor."

In her deposition, Baisley said Pasquantonio was fired because of poor job performance, including failing to inform her of agenda items for upcoming meetings or of scheduled meetings. Under questioning by Lovett, however, Baisley couldn't recall specific dates or agenda items that Pasquantonio overlooked and admitted to voting for a salary increase for him three months before he was terminated.

Randazzo said Pasquantonio didn't perform his job to Baisley's satisfaction and declined to comment on her deposition.

In November, Pasquantonio, a Democrat, lost a race for a Town Board seat to Republican Patricia Madigan.


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