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Brito to Sue City of Lawrence
Tom Duggan

LAWRENCE – Judy Brito, a former civilian dispatcher, who was fired after city officials videotaped her snorting cocaine on duty, has hired prominent North Andover Attorney Timothy Stark to sue the City of Lawrence for discrimination based on the events surrounding her termination.

Brito and her partner, Firefighter Isadoro “Junior” Cordero, worked at the Bodwell Street Fire Station and were responsible for answering 911 emergency phone calls as well as dispatching emergency personnel throughout the city.

Lawrence Mayor Michael J. Sullivan fired both Brito and Cordero after an anonymous tip alerted city officials about the all night drug and sex parties at the fire station when the two worked together. The call sparked an investigation that included a hidden camera at the firehouse capturing Cordero, Brito and two civilians drinking beer, snorting cocaine and engaging in sexual activity.

Before being hired as a civilian dispatcher for the Lawrence Fire Department, Brito was a confidential secretary for the Personnel Office in Lawrence City Hall. She said that she witnessed police officers, firefighters, and other city workers being sent to drug and alcohol rehabilitation after city officials learned about their substance abuse, but none were ever fired.

“The worst I ever thought would happen to me, if I got caught,” Brito said in an exclusive interview with The Valley Patriot in January, “is the same as what happens to everyone else. I figured they would send me to rehab and I would get to keep my job. Instead, cops get to go back on the street, firemen get to keep putting the public’s safety at risk, and the dispatcher is fired. It just isn’t right.”

Her Attorney, Timothy Stark, said he was hesitant to take the case when Brito first contacted him because of the publicity surrounding her firing and “obviously she is not a very sympathetic witness.”

“But after meeting her and looking into some of her allegations, I was surprised to find them credible. Even with the initial skepticism I had, she presented a very compelling case. My personal belief at this point is that the city has made a determination that the most effective and politically astute way of handling this problem is to make my client a scapegoat and call it an isolated incident. If this assumption is correct, it presents grave and unacceptable consequences to the residents of the City of Lawrence.”

“I personally believe her assertion that there are numerous other instances where firemen and police officers are actively using controlled substances and that the decision to not aggressively pursue an investigation is extremely dangerous.”

According to Lawrence Mayor Mike Sullivan, “it is standard practice for us to send employees to EAP (the Employment Assistance Program) for help with substance abuse problems but that information is confidential. I can’t talk about who or how many city employees we have sent to EAP, but we are following the law and we treat everyone fairly.”

“The difference between what happened with Judy Brito and what has happened in the past with city employees, is that even if everything Judy Brito alleges is true, it doesn’t change the fact that she was caught on duty using cocaine. I have never been aware of any other city employee caught using drugs on duty. If I had or if I do, I will fire them immediately as well. I have no tolerance for that kind of behavior, period!”

Attorney Stark says he has doubts about Sullivan’s claim. “For the mayor to say that none of the other employees were caught on the job seems disingenuous at best. I can’t imagine, of all the city workers who have been sent to rehab by the City of Lawrence, that none of them were seen or known to be using controlled substances while on duty. It is almost a statistical impossibility. It is also unlikely that these other employees came forward voluntarily.”

Attorney Timothy Stark, who specializes in unemployment and discrimination law, told The Valley Patriot that he will most likely file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination on behalf of Brito. He expects the case to be filed by the end of the month. “There is a possible 151B action based upon disparate treatment of Mrs. Brito,” Stark said.

 “There may or may not be monetary damages in this situation. That’s up to MCAD. But Judy Brito is not doing it for the money. It’s more about the fact that she was unfairly singled out and fired for doing something that other city employees are and have been doing without getting fired. She is also concerned about justice and the safety of the people of the City of Lawrence. She brings up some very serious questions that require very serious and honest answers. I think she is hoping that the suit will bring details to public light about what has been quietly accepted of other city employees while she is out of a job.”

As reported in the January edition of The Valley Patriot, Brito and at least one city official said that tapes were made of more than one night at the Bodwell St. Station and that, subsequently, the other tapes have disappeared. Brito alleged that other city employees were seen on the tape and that she and Cordero were singled out because they had no political connections.
Mayor Sullivan vehemently denies the existence of more than one tape, lauding the work of police and fire officials who investigated the incident leading to Brito and Cordero being terminated.

“I stand by what both chiefs have said. It was prompted by an anonymous phone call stating that this activity only went on when Cordero and Brito worked together. We taped the night they worked together and there are no other tapes. I stand by that statement 100%.”

Asked if he believes there is a drug problem in either the fire or police departments, Sullivan said, “No, I don’t think so. If Ms. Brito has specific information about specific officers in either department, she should come forward and give us specific names and times and places. We will investigate any city employee who is using drugs.”

Sources in both the District Attorney and Attorney General’s offices told The Valley Patriot that there is more than one active investigation being conducted as the result of Judy Brito coming forward with specifics. Brito said she was “afraid to give details to local officials knowing how  widespread the problem is.”

To date, one of the civilians from the Bodwell Street videotaped incident has been arrested on unrelated drug charges.

Sources within the Lawrence Police Department say that more arrests are forthcoming.

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