Fire Captain's Bullying Case Results In $300,000 Settlement

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Axelrod said DiGennaro also had a "dead list." Once you make this list, he would refuse to talk to you.

Upset over what he perceived as a threat, Kindschi held a meeting with the fire chief and the other parties involved. But Kindschi claims he didn't get a word in and was blamed for the shift misunderstanding. From there, DiGennaro allegedly suggested "stepping outside" to settle things.

Kindschi next went to the city's human resource deapartment. Axelrod noted that Meriden has a policy barring threats or violence among city employees. However, Kindschi claims that an HR official told him that she has no authority over the sanitation, fire and police departments. "This is where the case takes off," said Axelrod.

Axelrod was then hired by Kindschi. The attorney wrote a letter to the HR official and the firefighters' union explaining the situation. The letter was ultimately shared with DiGennaro and other fire officials.

At a later meeting, DiGennaro allegedly told about a quarter of the firefighting staff that "untruths" were said about him by a certain unnamed firefighter. Axelrod said everyone knew he was referring to Kindschi.

"[DiGennaro] is saying that this captain can't be trusted to do what's right for you in a fire because he's untrustworthy and makes things up. [DiGennaro] is telling people not to listen to their captain," said Axelrod. "You have to trust the judgment of your supervisors. Your life could depend on it; the lives of civilians could depend on it. If you go into a burning building and you can't trust the judgment of the guy ordering you in, what's going to happen? Everything's going to break down."

From that point on, Kindschi said he felt isolated from fellow firefighters. He wasn't invited to any social gatherings. He claims that when he walked into a room, his colleagues would immediately stop talking.

So Kindschi filed a lawsuit against Meriden, DiGennaro and another fire official, Joseph Kaminski. Claims included defamation, emotional distress, assault, negligence and negligent supervision.

Finally, an investigation was launched, but Axelrod said it was not kept confidential. DiGennaro's colleagues were given questionnaires, but their responses were not anonymous. Also, since DiGennaro knew about the investigation, he was on his "best behavior" during the two-month process, said Axelrod.

"DiGennaro, for a couple months, is perfect. He says 'hi' to everybody. People say 'what a change, this is great,'" said Axelrod.

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