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Jan 16, 2012 2:17 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Former Quogue Jail Attendant Awaits Day In Court

Jan 17, 2012 2:32 PM

A former employee of the Quogue Village Police Department, who filed a lawsuit last summer that seeks $1 million in damages and alleges that Village Police and Quogue officials ignored her complaints after she was sexually harassed by a part-time police officer, hopes to have her day in court this spring.

Charlotte Lander, who had been employed as a part-time jail attendant at the village jail for 10 years before stepping down in June 2010, could have her case heard as early as April, according to her attorney, Michael M. McClellan with the Hauppauge law firm Perini and Hoerger.

He explained in a recent interview that his client’s lawsuit is still in the discovery phase, which entails collecting interviews and witness statements, and that he expects the case to be heard in April. He noted that a motion of default was recently filed against Quogue Village Police Officer John Mangino, whom Ms. Lander alleges in her lawsuit left a sexually explicit letter inside her Quogue home sometime over Memorial Day weekend in 2010, after he failed to appear in court, according to Mr. McClellan.

According to Ms. Lander, now 63, upon finding the letter inside her home, she presented it to Village Police officials in the hope of securing an order of protection against Officer Mangino, pending the completion of an investigation. But her lawsuit alleges that Police Lieutenant Chris Isola dismissed it as a “love letter” and an investigation was never conducted.

Officer Mangino, who still works for the police department, has been employed with the village since 1995.

According to the lawsuit filed in July in U.S. District Court, Ms. Lander was instead given a disciplinary warning for reporting the letter. According to her lawsuit, the letter that Ms. Lander received from the village on June 3, 2010, stated: “If this personal matter between you and Mangino interferes with either of your positions in the Police Department, your jobs may be affected.”

Though she does not make the demand in her litigation, Ms. Lander said she would like to see both Quogue Village Police Chief Robert Coughlan and Lt. Isola terminated for failing to conduct an investigation. She is also calling for Officer Mangino to be removed from the department.

Lt. Isola declined to comment on the lawsuit when reached this week and added that neither Chief Coughlan nor Officer Mangino would discuss the matter with a reporter.

Ms. Lander, who has lived in the village the past 25 years and now works as a secretary for Gargiula Construction in Quogue, maintains that the letter qualifies as sexual harassment. She added that it created a hostile environment at the police station, forcing her to leave her position.

“I live a life of hell here in Quogue now,” Ms. Lander said recently. “My reputation has been ruined by members of the department, the lieutenant mostly, who has made comments that I am crazy and money-hungry.”

The letter, titled “A letter to myself about my friend Charlotte,” describes a graphic erotic fantasy involving Officer Mangino and Ms. Lander. The hand-written letter, which Ms. Lander said she found on her kitchen table two days after inviting Officer Mangino over for coffee, was signed “John OOOXXX.”

Ms. Lander, who was known as “Momma” throughout the police department, said she frequently had officers over to her house for coffee and friendly visits.

Officer Mangino later admitted to his superior officers that he wrote the letter, though Ms. Lander said he told them he never intended for her to see it. Ms. Lander added that she was never in a relationship with the police officer.

Ms. Lander said members of the community have avoided her over the past 18 months, since the incident became public. She added that she often finds it difficult to visit local places, like the post office, because of the looks she receives from neighbors.

Officer Mangino also patrols areas that are frequented by Ms. Lander, she said. Though she often feels uncomfortable, Ms. Lander said she has no plans to move because she insists that she has done nothing wrong.

“It is hard when he is working because God forbid I need a cop,” Ms. Lander said. “I have to have him come here? No. That is the fear I live in.”

“Things have not been great for her,” added her attorney, Mr. McClellan.

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