Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie file photo
East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo Jr. at his inauguration (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

EAST HAVEN, CT —A three-year-old lawsuit accusing East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr. of sexually harassing a former town employee was settled right before the beginning of the trial Wednesday.

Francine Carbone will receive a $175,000 payment and she and her husband will get lifetime medical benefits under the settlement agreement.

Carbone sued Maturo personally – and the town. Since the town is self-insured the settlement will fall to East Haven taxpayers to pay.

That didn’t sit well with Democratic Town Chairman Marc Conte, Sr., who called on Maturo to both resign and pay the settlement himself.

“My sincere apologies to Mrs Carbone and her family on behalf of the town of East Haven,” Conte said. “Mayor Maturo needs to step down and the residents should not bear the burden of his indiscretions and serious mistakes as an administrator. Time and time again he has shown his inability to lead by example. Mayor Maturo you should pay for this settlement. Not the taxpayers.”

Shortly after the settlement was announced, Carbone was asked about the settlement.

“It will be up to the taxpayers and voters of East Haven to determine how they feel about it,” Carbone said. “It’s up to the taxpayers.”

East Haven 3rd District Town Council member Joseph Carfora wasn’t happy that the case didn’t go to trial.

“A lot of voices were silenced today and those voices were the taxpayers of East Haven,” Carfora, a Democrat, said.

The cost to taxpayers is one of the reasons the town provided after agreeing to a settlement.

“Although we are confident that we would have prevailed in both the federal wage and overtime case and today’s state court proceedings, absent this morning’s favorable settlement, the town could have found itself mired in costly, protracted litigation and appeals for years to come as any judgment in favor of the town and the mayor would have been appealed by Mrs. Carbone,” East Haven town attorney Joe Zullo said in a statement.

Zullo added: “Today’s global compromise, which will be memorialized in a formal settlement agreement in the coming days, will contain no admission of liability as to any of Mrs. Carbone’s claims, all of which both the town and the mayor vehemently continue to deny.”

Carbone, a former Town Hall secretary, in her lawsuit asked the court for compensatory and punitive damages; attorney fees; and to be reinstated to her old job with back pay and benefits.

Under the settlement agreement, she won’t be returning to her old job.

Maturo, a Republican, was represented by attorney Hugh Keefe. The town was represented by the law firm of Loughlin Fitzgerald.

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 alleged 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 Maturo 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.”

Maturo has repeatedly denied the allegations detailed in the complaint.

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

She lost that case in 2016.

Maturo is the longest serving mayor or first selectman in the Greater New Haven area — having served nine terms. He is up for re-election in November of 2019.

In 2017 he won a very close race, winning by slightly more than 100 votes out of 7,000 cast.

Click here for our previous report on the lawsuit.