Connecticut: “Former Trooper Awarded $225,000”

This article by Hartford Courant staff writer Tracy Gordon Fox is cited here in full.

BRIDGEPORT — In what her attorney called “a victory for the rights of whistleblowers,” a jury awarded a former state trooper $225,000 Thursday for being punished after she raised concerns about the accuracy of the state police polygraph unit.

Adrienne LaMorte sued her former supervisor, state police Major John Leonard, for transferring her after she complained about Sgt. Randolph Howell, her immediate superior in the polygraph unit. She said he was conducting polygraph examinations in an incompetent manner, according to the lawsuit.

The case, which was heard in federal court, raised some serious issues within the state polygraph unit, which Howell still supervises. The jury found that LaMorte’s rights to free speech were violated.

LaMorte’s attorney, Karen Lee Torre of New Haven, said the lawsuit was “a victory for the rights of state employees to freely speak about what their agencies are doing wrong.”

“Instead of doing the right thing, they ended up punishing the whistleblower.”

Leonard is now retired from the state police. Assistant Attorney General Joseph Jordiano, who represented Leonard in the trial, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

But Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Thursday that his office would determine whether an appeal was necessary.

“We will review the evidence presented at trial and recommend the state police do so as well.”

Sgt. J. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman, said he knew of no problems within the polygraph unit.

Among the questionable polygraph tests were those given to suspected child molesters, who Howell said had passed when the evidence showed they had scored in the failing range, Torre said. Although polygraphs are not used in criminal trials, they are often used as an investigative tool for police and prosecutors. During the trial, another former state trooper testified that he also had concerns about how the polygraphs were being done.

“These were important cases and decisions were made based on those,” Torre said.

In June 2000, LaMorte told Leonard, who was then commanding officer of the division of the state police that oversees the polygraph unit, that Howell “did not possess the knowledge, skill or competence to perform polygraph examinations and had conducted examinations in a manner which fell far below the standards.”

According to the lawsuit, two months after LaMorte complained about the polygraph unit, Leonard brought charges against her for allegedly violating rules of confidentiality for polygraph examinations and being rude to an examinee. As a result of those two complaints, LaMorte was issued a written reprimand and transferred from the unit.

It should be noted that the Connecticut State Police (CSP) polygraph unit headed by Sgt. Randolph Howell brands some 60% of CSP applicants who advance as far in the hiring process as the polygraph as liars.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.