By Lani Duke
A lawsuit has been filed against the Castleton police chief.
Officer Cheri McDermott, who was fired Dec. 3, 2017, filed the lawsuit Sept. 27, claiming Castleton Police Chief Peter Mantello planned to remove her and had said that women should not be police officers.
The suit claims that she was treated more harshly than were male police officers by both the town and the chief. McDermott’s filing declared her firing was in violation of federal discrimination laws and the state’s fair employment practices restrictions. She is asking the court for unspecified damages including lost pay and benefits.
Her lawsuit justifies McDermott’s inspecting of another officer’s paystub, saying she believed the man was padding his time and paid for hours he did not work. She searched for evidence and found it in the Castleton Police department desk the officer used, taking a picture of the paystub she found. When she notified the chief that she suspected the man, Mantello did not act on her tip.
She told another officer of her findings, who relayed the information to Mantello. The chief told McDermott in a July 26 email that he had looked into her concern, an investigation was 90 percent complete, and would not be finished until mid-August or later.
Mantello developed a three-year plan to remove McDermott from the department soon after becoming Castleton’s police chief in September 2014, the lawsuit outlines.
He placed her on administrative leave July 13, 2017, and fired her Dec. 3. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission granted McDermott the right to sue Castleton and Mantello for workplace discrimination in September.
Castleton Town Manager Mark Shea told others that McDermott should be disciplined but could not be fired, according to the filing, VTDigger wrote. Shea left his Castleton position Oct. 27.
Four days after leaving Shea left the position, McDermott received a letter in which Mantello said he was considering firing her and set a hearing date on Nov. 14.
McDermott learned on Dec. 3 she was being fired for entering the officer’s desk, sharing information on his schedule, and committing “petit larceny” in stealing the stub.
Her lawsuit characterizes those reasons as pretexts for termination, lining out similar instances involving town officers that had far more lenient results.
It recorded an unnamed Castleton officer showing his badge to a public tavern bartender trying unsuccessfully to get service after hours, and another instance, in which an unnamed off-duty officer was publicly intoxicated in Rutland City and failed to comply with city police working another situation but received less discipline than McDermott.
Further, the town supplied false information about McDermott to the town of Killington so that it withdrew its part-time police officer employment offer, the suit alleges.