TRURO — A seven-year-old discrimination suit filed by a longtime Outer Cape police officer against the town and former Police Chief Kyle Takakjian has been reinstated on appeal.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court on Dec. 7 overturned a lower court ruling that had dismissed Officer Carrie DeAngelo’s complaints alleging that she was discriminated against because of her gender and sexual orientation. Her suit has been sent back to Barnstable Superior Court for trial.
DeAngelo, who is now an Eastham police officer, joined the Truro Police Dept. in 2006 as a patrol officer and was then promoted to sergeant. She left the Truro department on Oct. 31, 2016, driven out, she claims, by the treatment she received from some fellow officers and from Chief Takakjian. In her complaint, DeAngelo notes that she was the sole female officer and the only openly gay officer in the department.
The case has been in litigation for the last seven years. According to Eastham’s 2016 town report, DeAngelo took a lateral transfer from Truro to Eastham, where she serves in several roles including elementary school resource officer.
Eastham Police Chief Adam Bohannon declined to comment on the Truro case, but he said in an email that “Officer Carrie DeAngelo has been a phenomenal police officer during her time here in Eastham.”
A Legal Odyssey
In May 2017, about six months after leaving the Truro job, DeAngelo began her long legal battle by filing a complaint with the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), a step required under state law before a case can proceed to Superior Court.
With the commission’s go-ahead, DeAngelo filed suit in Barnstable Superior Court in September 2018. According to court documents, she alleged that the treatment she received in Truro because of her gender and sexual orientation created a hostile work environment. She claimed loss of income, loss of benefits, and loss of reputation and opportunity, along with emotional distress and mental suffering.
DeAngelo sought compensatory damages for those losses, punitive damages, and payment of her attorney fees, along with any other relief the court deemed proper.
In her complaint, DeAngelo claimed that Takakjian had treated her differently than male officers since 2006. Before he became police chief in 2011, Takakjian supervised DeAngelo in his role as sergeant. His discriminatory behavior toward her continued when he was appointed chief, DeAngelo said. Takakjian retired in 2017.
In her complaint, DeAngelo wrote that Takakjian scrutinized and criticized her reports and actions on the job but did not criticize or discipline her fellow male and heterosexual officers for similar behaviors.
DeAngelo also included Officer Craig Bayer, who was her subordinate, in her complaint, alleging that he questioned her decision-making and filed complaints about her with the police chief.
In December 2015, Takakjian informed DeAngelo of an internal investigation of what he claimed was an improper arrest. In her complaint, DeAngelo said she was forced to sign an agreement admitting she made an error during the arrest because Takakjian led her to believe she would otherwise be terminated. As part of the agreement, she served a three-day suspension and attended a training course provided by John Souza, the former Fall River police chief. The agreement also included a waiver of her right to bring civil claims, “including those alleging discrimination.”
Souza provided the training to DeAngelo in April 2016 and reviewed the allegations against her.
In her complaint, DeAngelo stated that Souza concluded she had done nothing wrong during the arrest that led to her discipline. Souza also said “he had never seen anything like this done to an officer in his career,” according to DeAngelo’s complaint.
Takakjian refused to provide DeAngelo with a copy of Souza’s report, based on advice from town counsel, even after the secretary of state determined she had a right to view it and the Office of the Attorney General ordered the town to produce it.
DeAngelo asked the Barnstable Superior Court to require that the report be provided to her as part of her personnel record.
In April 2022, four years after the suit was filed, Superior Court Judge Thomas Perrino dismissed the complaint in a summary judgment in favor of the town and police chief, who had argued that the statute of limitations had run out by the time DeAngelo began the complaint process. Complaints must be filed within 300 days after the discriminatory behavior occurred, they had argued. DeAngelo had filed with MCAD in May 2017, making any incidents before July 2016 ineligible because of the time limit.
Judge Perrino also agreed with the town’s and chief’s arguments regarding lack of factual support for her claim of discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.
The Appeals Court vacated all of the Superior Court’s rulings except for the lower court’s dismissal of DeAngelo’s claims against Bayer, who is no longer a Truro police officer. That dismissal was upheld.
In its order vacating the lower court’s judgment and remanding the matter to the Superior Court, the Appeals Court said the continued denial to provide DeAngelo with the Souza report could be seen as discrimination that continued after the July 2016 cutoff of the statute of limitation. In its memorandum, the court said, “Souza concluded that the town had mishandled the investigation, that its assessment of the propriety of her actions was inaccurate, and that the town and Takakjian encouraged insubordination and disrespect of the plaintiff by her subordinates.”
Reached by telephone on Tuesday, Takakjian declined to comment.
The higher court decision also cited testimony from DeAngelo that the acts of insubordination were almost daily and testimony from Sgt. David Perry that the officers “wouldn’t take orders from her; they would talk behind her back; they would disrespect her out on the field.”
Judge Perrino did not address DeAngelo’s request for a declaration that the Souza report was part of her personnel record and that she was entitled to review it, the Appeals Court order noted.
Attorney Adrienne Beauregard-Rheaume, who represents DeAngelo, said in an email Tuesday that the next step is a trial in Barnstable Superior Court. It may go before a jury, she said, which is what both sides initially requested.
“The town and the former chief still have an opportunity to seek further appellate review of the appeals court decision by the Supreme Judicial Court,” Beauregard-Rheaume said.
DeAngelo did not respond to a request for comment before this newspaper’s deadline.