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Mar 4, 2015 9:46 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Second Female Sergeant Sues Southampton Town, Police Officials, Alleging Discrimination

Mar 4, 2015 10:09 AM

A second female officer in the Southampton Town Police Department has taken the town and department brass to court, alleging that she has been retaliated against for speaking with internal affairs officers and district attorneys during an investigation into the Town Police, and accusing her superiors of a long-running pattern of sexual discrimination and improper behavior.

Sergeant Susan Ralph filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Central Islip on February 13, naming department Chief Robert Pearce and Lieutenant James Kiernan as defendants in the case, contending that they conducted a campaign of retaliation against her. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and restitution based on the actions of her superiors.

In the filing, Sgt. Ralph, who joined the force in 2002, said she was targeted by her immediate superiors for unfair treatment because she has filed multiple sexual discrimination complaints with a state employment commission, and for speaking with Suffolk County investigators about Lt. Kiernan during an investigation into his management of the department’s undercover drug enforcement unit in 2012.

“She was ostracized in the department after that,” Sgt. Ralph’s attorney, Peter Famighetti, said this week. “She said recently [that] ‘it’s very chilly’ around the department for her at this point, and that it seems like around every corner there is some roadblock to advancement. To be subject to that, for speaking truthfully, shouldn’t happen.”

Lt. Kiernan was suspended from the force for six months in 2012 after former Police Chief William Wilson Jr. filed a battery of departmental charges against him. He was ultimately reinstated by the Town Board, and a week later Chief Wilson retired after a tumultuous 18 months on the job, and Chief Pearce took over the department.

In her discussion with Suffolk County Police Department internal affairs investigators, and with the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, the complaint says, Sgt. Ralph recounted dishonesty by Lt. Kiernan regarding the handling of an undercover officer, Eric Sickles, who was discovered to be addicted to prescription pain medication but was allowed to continue working on drug cases. The suit says that Sgt. Ralph was critical to investigators of Lt. Kiernan’s supervision of the undercover detail, known as the Street Crime Unit, and stated that she did not trust him.

After Chief Pearce took over the department and Lt. Kiernan returned to duty, the lawsuit says, Sgt. Ralph found herself facing numerous hurdles on the job that other officers did not encounter. The suit claims she was removed from departmental email lists that circulated internal directives and information, that she was excluded from important training programs, was moved to a smaller office far from other supervisory officers, and that her computer had its USB drive removed without explanation.

Chief Pearce could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit.

Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said she could not comment on any of the specific charges leveled in the lawsuit. She did say that the town has not yet been served with the lawsuit, but that her office is in the midst of searching for an outside law firm to handle its defense, which will be funded by the town’s state-run insurance policy.

The town and department also face a discrimination lawsuit filed last April by Sergeant Lisa Costa, the head of the department’s detectives division and the only other female superior officer on the force. Sgt. Costa’s suit, for which depositions are currently being taken, alleges a pattern of discrimination and sexual harassment throughout her career.

Both of the female sergeants’ lawsuits, and the multiple complaints they have filed with state employment commissions, name several former officers, accusing them of inappropriate behavior and comments toward women in the department. Sgt. Ralph has filed three officials complaints of discriminatory behavior by superiors, two of them in 2014.

Prior to the investigation of Lt. Kiernan, Sgt. Ralph’s suit contends that she had been subject to numerous instances of sexual discrimination and harassment by other members of the department, including a former department chief, James Overton, making unwanted sexual advances toward her on multiple occasions. Sgt. Costa’s suit also accused Mr. Overton of making unwanted advances.

Mr. Famighetti said Sgt. Ralph’s suit does not yet specify the damages sought but that the long history of the charges in the suit mean that she has been kept from numerous potential advancements that could carry monetary value.

“She is still working and making her salary, but we’re looking at the opportunities that she hasn’t had,” the attorney said. “Some of these facts go back to 1994.”

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Well this story took a while to write. Its old news by now,
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Mar 4, 15 10:13 AM
What is getting old is that the same idiot Cops are still running the SHT PD. The games & rampant corruption continue and good Cops are being screwed over. Pearce, Kiernan and their merry band of fools should be fired once and for all. What will it take for this to happen? Has anyone ever looked into all the guns Kiernan thew in the Bay in HB over the years after confiscating them from his friends so they would not get in trouble? That's just one of MANY games these fools play with our safety but ...more
By G (342), Southampton on Mar 4, 15 10:35 AM
Sgt. Ralph is a good person and a good police officer but this is just another legal feeding frenzy sponsored by me and my fellow taxpayers. It's very sad.

By dave21 (16), westhampton on Mar 4, 15 11:42 AM
It's a man's world.

Maybe some men should try to accept it.
Mar 4, 15 11:52 AM appended by Mr. Z
'Cause this world would be nothin' without women.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 4, 15 11:52 AM
that's an extremely serious allegation G. do you know where in the bay those guns were thrown? and what crimes were committed?
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Mar 4, 15 5:10 PM
Here's a person making 150k a year for 190 days a year, and it's not enough. I'm sure plenty of readers here would like this discrimination. By the way the best part is you will pay for the legal fees, and millions in benefits for the retirement of this unthankful employee. Wake up America!!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 5, 15 1:27 PM
The Feed & Grain initially ignored this story and then buried it in the back pages. Just another example of its "kissin' cousin" relationship with the STPD.

Allegations by an STPD female police sergeant of sexual predation and the denial of promotion due to sexual discrimination and retaliation for her cooperation in the Sickles/Kiernan narcotics scandal investigation would, otherwise, be front page news
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 8, 15 11:01 AM
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