jack kramer / ctnewsjunkie
East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr. (jack kramer / ctnewsjunkie)

EAST HAVEN, CT (UPDATED 8 p.m.) — A three-year-old lawsuit that accuses East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr. of sexually harassing a former town employee is going to trial this coming Wednesday.

With the trial of Francine Carbone vs. Joseph Maturo slated to start, the two parties’ attempt to reach a settlement to avoid trial failed on Monday, according to Rachel Baird, Carbone’s attorney.

Carbone, a former Town Hall secretary, is suing both Maturo personally and the town of East Haven. She is asking the court for judgement in an amount greater than $15,000; compensatory and punitive damages; attorney fees; and to be reinstated to her old job with back pay and benefits.

Maturo is represented by attorney Hugh Keefe. The town is represented by Loughin Fitzgerald.

Maturo has repeatedly denied the allegations, calling the lawsuit frivolous and without merit, stating he is confident that he will be vindicated in court.

Asked Monday if he had any additional comment to make about the settlement conference, Maturo simply answered: “No.”

A request for comment from Loughlin Fitzgerald was not answered.

In 2015, Carbone filed the lawsuit claiming she faced a continual pattern of harassment from Maturo, including inappropriate remarks and obscene gestures, since her employment began in January 1997. During one incident in 2013, Carbone claims Maturo exposed himself in her office.

From Jan. 25, 1997, to Oct. 17, 2014, Carbone was employed by the town. In October of 2014 she was fired.

According to the lawsuit, Maturo “continually made comments about the plaintiff’s breasts, typically: ‘Seriously, how much do those weigh?’ He made such a comment just days before the plaintiff’s last day before leaving work on FMLA leave on May 5, 2014. He often grabbed his crotch in front of the plaintiff and said: ‘This is for you.’ He did such things in front of witnesses, including the Town Attorney. At one time, the Chief of Police told him that he was sexually harassing the plaintiff, but the Mayor’s behavior did not change.”

Carbone’s complaint also alleges that Maturo exposed himself to her while she bent down to file documents in a cabinet: “On or about October 24 or 25, 2013, defendant Mature entered the plaintiff’s office while she was bending down filing documents in a filing cabinet. He came up behind her and said: ‘While you’re down there … ’ The plaintiff turned and saw that he had his penis out and near her face. She screamed. Witnesses were nearby.”

Carbone alleges that Maturo’s behavior made her working conditions “intolerable,” causing “severe emotional distress.”

Carbone also filed a Family Medical Leave Act lawsuit, alleging the Maturo administration retaliated against her for taking medical leave.

She lost that case.

The case has seen dozens of different motions and court requests filed over the past three years.

Recently the lawyer for Carbone, Rachel Baird, filed a motion for a protective order, asking the judge to not allow any more questions to be asked about whether her client’s attire was appropriate.

In the motion for protective order, Baird states that Maturo’s lawyer (Hugh Keefe) “repeated questioning of the plaintiff about her clothing on at least three different occasions at depositions held on Feb. 4, 2016, March 21, 2016 and July 26, 2018, as relevant to the issue of whether Mayor Maturo exposed his penis to the plaintiff and sexually harassed the plaintiff is oppressive, perverse, obsessive, and motivated by the discarded and antiquated principle that a female who is sexually harassed in the workplace is at fault when her male supervisor’s uncontrollable tendencies are provoked.”

In the motion for the protective order, Carbone’s lawyer said questions about her work attire should not be allowed as there are no references to work attire in her termination documents.

Baird’s motion further states: “Mayor Maturo has not pleaded a defense that the plaintiff deserved to be sexually harassed and have his penis exposed to her because of her ‘provocative’ dress and, until the pleadings are amended to add that ‘defense,’ discovery about the plaintiff’s clothing should be prohibited as a tactic to oppress, harass, and intimidate the plaintiff by attempting to present her as a ‘provocative’ female whose ‘status’ makes her unworthy of complaining about sexual harassment and penis exposure in the workplace.”

Baird continued: “[Those kinds] of oppression in court proceedings are a reason why so many females of any ‘status,’ do not file complaints and remain silent for years and often forever.”

Keefe, however, responded by filing a motion requesting that the court sanction Carbone’s attorney. He said the reason Carbone’s manner of dress was raised was because “the plaintiff has asserted she was singled out and disciplined at work by Joseph Maturo without reasonable cause.

“One such instance of discipline relates to a time that the plaintiff was sent home for dressing in a manner that was not appropriate for any employee of a town hall,” Keefe said, adding in his motion to sanction Carbone’s attorney that the dress issue was raised “in a thinly veiled attempt at producing public fervor against both the defendant and his attorney.”

The court deferred questions about Carbone’s work dress attire to be determined by the trial judge when and if it gets to trial.

Maturo is not a stranger to the court system.

Last year the state Supreme Court upheld Superior Court Judge Carl J. Schuman’s ruling that denied Maturo the ability to collect a $43,000-a-year pension that he had earned during his nearly two decades serving as a firefighter for the town of East Haven before he was elected mayor.

Schuman had dismissed Maturo’s appeal of the Connecticut State Employee Retirement Commission’s denial of his request to collect the pension while working full time in a new government job.

Maturo was challenging the fact that state retirement officials changed their rules in 2011 and imposed new pension restrictions after decades of permitting double-dipping — that is, collecting a municipal pension while in a new job on the payroll of a city or town.

In 2013, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill that would have reinstated Maturo’s pension.

Maturo was a firefighter in East Haven for 18 years, from 1973 to 1991, retiring with a disability pension resulting from a back injury in October 1991.

Maturo also made national headlines in 2012 in the midst of a federal investigation into whether his town’s police department was unfairly targeting Latinos for harassment. Four officers were eventually jailed on those charges.

That investigation brought a lot unwanted media attention to East Haven. After repeatedly being questioned by reporters, Maturo, who later said he was under stress, responded sarcastically to WPIX reporter Mario Diaz, who asked: “What are you going to do for the Latino community today?” And with one hand on his hip Maturo quite proudly responded: “I might have tacos when I go home, I’m not quite sure yet.”

That response brought a storm of criticism upon Maturo, who repeatedly apologized for his comment.

Despite his repeated issues with the news media and the court, Maturo has proved to be a popular mayor in East Haven.

In 2017 he was elected to his ninth term as the town’s top executive, making him the longest-serving incumbent in the Greater New Haven area.