NY Firefighter Turns Crotch Grab Into A $1.2 Million Federal Case

A volunteer firefighter in New York who claims he was thrown out of his fire company for complaining about another firefighter grabbing him by the crotch, has filed suit in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Noel Brandt filed suit last week against the Sag Harbor Fire Department and Fire Chief Thomas Gardella alleging he was wrongfully terminated from the fire company after he complained about being sexually assaulted by an elderly member at a Sag Harbor Fire Department function.

According to the complaint:

  • On June 4, 2015 , NOEL BRANDT was sexually assaulted by Ray Milazzo, a member of the Sag Harbor Fire Department at a Sag Harbor Fire Department function.
  • SAG HARBOR FIRE DEPARTMENT, through actions of its Chief followed a pattern and practice to suppress the information on the assaultive conduct by Ray Milazzo, and suppress the knowledge of the sexual assault on the premises of the Sag Harbor Fire Department.
  • Ray Milazzo, without invitation to physically touch NOEL BRANDT, grabbed NOEL BRANDT’s clothed penis and scrotum with his hand and continued to hold it for a period of time at a Sag Harbor Fire Department function in June 2015.
  • The physical assault by Ray Milazzo was done in the view of a number of members of various fire companies, including NOEL BRANDT’s Uncle Brian Gilbride and Eugene Garypie, who were both encouraging the action of Ray Milazzo.
  • Upon returning to his home on June 4, 2015, NOEL BRANDT, convinced that the egging on by his Uncle Brian Gilbride and Eugene Garypie to Milazzo had instigated and/or continued the sexual assault, sent a text message to Eugene Garypie to relay to his Uncle Brian, indicating that their encouragement of such a sexual assault by proxy was unacceptable, and NOEL BRANDT was more than ready to handle himself physically in person if they wanted to come by his house to continue what they had encouraged in the assault on NOEL BRANDT by the old man Ray Milazzo.
  • The text message read in sum and substance that he did not appreciate their snickering over the sexual assault and the two of them could come by Brandt’s house and the text to Garypie noted “Let your friend know I am having a 2 for 1 sale on whoop ass” …
  • lnstead of dealing with NOEL BRANDT as a victim of a sexual assault and supporting his rightfully indicating he would defend himself against any further harassment or sexual assaults, or investigating and charging the assault by Milazzo, Chief THOMAS GARDELLA and the Incorporated Village of Sag Harbor terminated NOEL BRANDT as a volunteer firefighter without due process of law.
  • At a Board of Wardens meeting of the Sag Harbor Fire Department following the sexual assault, the victim NOEL BRANDT was forced by THOMAS GARDELLA to wait outside the wardens meeting for several hours while the Wardens sat in executive session and took testimony from the assailant Ray Milazzo and others.
  • The Board of Wardens was never advised in 2015 or 2016 of NOEL BRANDT having been the victim of the Milazzo sexual assault.
  • At the Board of Wardens meeting, while waiting outside the room or at any time before or thereafter, NOEL BRANDT was not provided any written notice of what he was alleged to have done which would have caused him to be timely charged for any offense as a volunteer firefighter with the Sag Harbor Fire Department.
  • At the 2015 Board of Wardens meeting of the Sag Harbor Fire Department, while waiting outside the room or at any time before or thereafter, NOEL BRANDT was not provided the opportunity to testify in a formal hearing.
  • At the 2015 Board of Wardens meeting of the Sag Harbor Fire Department, NOEL BRANDT was not provided any opportunity to contest any charges made against him.
  • NOEL BRANDT was only called into the room following the 2015 Executive Session of the Board of Wardens of the Sag Harbor Fire Department to be notified that the suspension was still in place.
  • After weeks of further suspension following the Executive Session of the Board of Wardens, NOEL BRANDT contacted Chief THOMAS GARDELLA of the Sag Harbor Fire Department, and was advised that his suspension would continue and he would have to pay for and attend some classes which might be described as “Anger Management”.
  • When NOEL BRANDT protested that there was no basis in the By Laws for such an imposition of an obligation on a member, Fire Department Chief THOMAS GARDELLA submitted the termination order to the Sag Harbor Village Board, and the Sag Harbor Village Board voted to terminate NOEL BRANDT in January 2016.

Brandt is seeking $1.2 million in damages.

Here is a copy of the complaint: 2017 Brandt v Gardella

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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