A former Sag Harbor firefighter is suing the village and an ex-fire chief over what the complaint describes as a “sexual assault.”
In the lawsuit, Noel Brandt of Sag Harbor claims that Ray Milazzo, another member of the Sag Harbor Fire Department, grabbed Mr. Brandt’s crotch “and continued to hold it for a period of time” at an inter-company fire department function on June 4, 2015.
Mr. Brandt claims in the lawsuit that the incident took place in front of Eugene Garypie, another former fire chief, and Mr. Brandt’s uncle, former Mayor Brian Gilbride, who were both “encouraging” Mr. Milazzo’s behavior. After the incident, Mr. Brandt sent a text message to Mr. Garypie to pass along to Mr. Gilbride, according to the complaint, which was filed on Monday, November 6, in U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York. The text message said that their “snickering” and encouragement during the incident had been “unacceptable.”
The text message from Mr. Brandt to Mr. Garypie also said, “Let your friend know I am having a 2 for 1 sale on whoop ass …”
Mr. Brandt claims that he was then suspended and subsequently fired from the fire department on the order of former fire chief Thomas Gardella.
According to Lawrence E. Kelly, Mr. Brandt’s attorney, Mr. Brandt had a meeting with Chief Gardella and two assistant chiefs regarding the incident, after which Mr. Brandt was suspended from the fire department. When the suspension was brought up in front of the department’s Board of Wardens later in 2015, the lawsuit claims, the board was unaware of the sexual nature of the assault, Mr. Kelly said.
The suit claims that Mr. Brandt did not get the chance to testify in front of the Board of Wardens because Chief Gardella told him to wait outside the meeting. Mr. Brandt says that Chief Gardella told him afterward that his suspension would be extended and that he would have to pay to attend “anger management” classes.
Mr. Brandt was fired from the department by the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees in January 2016 after a termination order was submitted by Mr. Gardella. The lawsuit says that Mr. Brandt was enrolled in the Length of Service Award Program, or LOSAP, which provides an accumulation of annuity payments with a credit for every year or service. Because of his suspension and subsequent termination, the lawsuit claims, Mr. Brandt was denied future LOSAP benefits.
Reached on Monday, Mr. Milazzo said the lawsuit was “news to me” and that he could not comment on Mr. Brandt’s allegations.
Mr. Gardella said that he had no knowledge of the incident and was not even present at the 2015 department event.
“The things that he’s alleging, I can’t even repeat it. It’s so disgusting,” said the former chief, who ran for a seat on the Village Board earlier this year. “He never brought that to my knowledge, and it’s something that we take very seriously.”
Mr. Brandt is seeking $950,000 in damages from Mr. Gardella and the village, along with an additional $300,000 in damages from Mr. Gardella specifically for not giving Mr. Brandt the opportunity to testify for his case.
Mr. Brandt could not be reached for comment on Monday.