BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) – The Department of Justice has agreed to a tentative settlement of a lawsuit by a Connecticut FBI agent who alleged his bosses discriminated and retaliated against him and were so dysfunctional that then-Director James Comey apologized to employees of the New Haven office.
Lawyers for agent Kurt Siuzdak and the government disclosed the settlement to a federal judge in Bridgeport on Monday, according to court records. Terms were not revealed, and the deal must be formally set to paper and signed.
Siuzdak’s attorney, Thomas Bucci, declined to comment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Folster Lesperance, who represented the Department of Justice, and an FBI spokesman in New Haven did not return messages seeking comment Monday. In court documents, officials denied the lawsuit’s allegations.
Siuzdak is a 21-year veteran of the FBI who worked in New York City and as a legal attache in Iraq before moving to the New Haven field office in 2009. He was among the agents who responded to the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11.
His 2014 lawsuit, which originally named then-Attorney General Eric Holder and now names current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said he was subjected to retaliation by his New Haven bosses after he filed equal opportunity complaints beginning in 2013 alleging age and gender discrimination.
Siuzdak accused the former agent in charge in New Haven, Kimberly Mertz, and the current agent in charge, Patricia Ferrick, of blocking his pursuit of several management positions and starting baseless internal investigations because of his complaints. He said the retaliation continued after he filed the lawsuit, which sought damages, attorney fees and an order that officials do not continue such conduct.
Siuzdak also said in the lawsuit that FBI employment surveys in 2012 and 2013 gave the Connecticut office low ratings for leadership, employee treatment and morale. A January 2013 inspection of the office’s violent-crime task forces by FBI headquarters found that, in New Haven, “senior management was described as leading by fear and intimidation, negatively impacting both internal personnel and the liaison relationships with the FBI’s external partners.”
Comey visited the New Haven field office near the end of 2013 and apologized to employees for “the failure of the FBI’s executive management to correct the leadership failures” in Connecticut, the lawsuit said.