OC Again Seeks Dismissal Of Former Cop’s Discrimination Suit

OCEAN CITY — The town of Ocean City this week filed a motion to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer against his employer.

Former OCPD officer David Catrino in 2009 filed suit in U.S. District Court against the department and the town of Ocean City seeking injunctive relief and an undisclosed award of compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants for wrongly denying him a reasonable accommodation to which he believes he was entitled to under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).

In short, Catrino, who has diabetes, alleges he was dismissed in July 2007 when he left his post to eat to meet the needs of his condition before his scheduled shift was set to expire.

However, the town of Ocean City and the department contends Catrino voluntarily terminated his employment with the OCPD over disciplinary actions against the officer and that his dismissal had nothing to do with the accommodations related to his illness.

The town has successfully argued its case at the Worcester County Circuit Court level, and at arbitration and ultimately the Maryland Court of Appeals, but Catrino has taken his complaint to the U.S. District Court. This week, the town of Ocean City filed a formal motion to dismiss the suit at the federal level.

According to the motion to dismiss, in July 2007, Catrino became angered that he had been ordered to police headquarters to be notified he was being charged with misconduct that could result in the termination of his employment, in what was just the latest disciplinary action instituted against the officer.

“Upon meeting with his supervisor, Catrino launched into a tirade regarding the disciplinary action and concedes that he told his supervisor he should quit and that he ultimately left his duty assignment long before the end of this shift,” the motion to dismiss reads. “It is undisputed that his supervisor denied his request to go off duty.”

Ocean City has contended from the beginning Catrino’s conduct in July 2007 amounted to a voluntary termination. It was only after his supervisors accepted his resignation and terminated his employment that Catrino “changed his story and claimed he was feeling the affects of diabetes.” However, at every level of appeal, Catrino’s allegation he was terminated because of his special needs related to his illness was denied, according to the motion to dismiss.

“Catrino’s position is not supported by the undisputed facts, and arbitrator’s finds, or the decisions of the Circuit Court for Worcester County and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals,” the motion reads. “As the foregoing demonstrates, Ocean City is entitled to summary judgment on all of Catrino’s claims.”

According to the motion, on July 21, 2007, Catrino was summoned to police headquarters to be formally charged with conduct unbecoming an officer. The charges stemmed from an alleged event during which Catrino used coarse, violent, profane or insulting language. Also according the motion filed this week, the above incident was not the first time disciplinary action was initiated against Catrino.

“Over the four proceeding years, Catrino had been disciplined for conduct unbecoming an officer, consuming alcohol while on duty, disclosing confidential police department business information and, finally, insubordination,” the motion to dismiss reads.

However, Catrino has contended from the beginning of the process he did not voluntarily terminate his employment with the department, but merely sought accommodations for his illness he had been afforded since his diabetes diagnosis. After the disciplinary action at police headquarters, the officer responded as ordered to meet with his supervisor at the foot of the Route 50 bridge where he was allegedly instructed to handle a report about a possible wanted suspect on the span.

Catrino did handle the police call on the bridge, but left shortly thereafter, telling his supervisor he needed to see his doctor because he was not feeling well. Shortly thereafter, he signed off duty and went to a resort restaurant to get something to eat, ostensibly to help satisfy the conditions of his illness. According to the motion to dismiss, Catrino did not return to work and did not finish his shift, which amounted to a voluntary termination, according to the motion filed this week.

“According to the employee handbook, an employee who verbally quits and walks off the job will be seen to have voluntarily terminated,” the motion reads. “Catrino did not have permission to leave his duty assignment and verbally indicated he was quitting. Catrino’s conduct constituted a voluntarily termination under Ocean City’s employee handbook.”