Officer May Be Reinstated Despite Sexual Harassment Allegations
|thenorthstar||Jul 2, 2019|
A Gettysburg, Pennsylvania police officer who allegedly sexually harassed a female officer may soon return to the police force.In 2017, Brandi Courtesis filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the borough of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. As part of the ensuing settlement between her and the city, Courtesis resigned from her job with the Gettysburg Police Department.
Though the accused officer was not reprimanded for the alleged sexual harassment at the time, he was later fired for other reasons. As part of an appeals process that did not include information about the sexual harassment claim, the officer may soon be reinstated and may even receive back pay.In her federal civil rights lawsuit, Courtesis claimed that her colleague and former boyfriend Michael Carricato began sexually harassing her in September 2015. Carricato reportedly spoke about the size of his penis and the number of women he had sex with in front of Courtesis. He also secretly filmed her at work and made demeaning comments about women, PennLive reported.
These actions prompted Courtesis to report Carricato’s behavior to her supervisor Sgt. Larry Weikert. The sergeant took no action but told Courtesis to speak to Chief Joe Dougherty, who in turn issued a discipline memo to both officers in November 2015, according to The Appeal.
When Courtesis reported the issues to the borough manager, the police chief allegedly yelled at her and told her “not to again approach [the borough manager] about her ‘personal problems.’” She claimed she was also advised to “thicken her skin.” Weeks later, Carricato attempted to secretly record a conversation with Courtesis on a department-issued body camera but she noticed his camera was on about six minutes into the conversation. Craricato admitted to recording her and then proceeded to threaten Courtesis in an attempt to get her to rescind her allegations against him, the civil complaint said.Carricato told Courtesis he would “do everything in his power to make sure [she was] dragged down with [him].” Courtesis informed her department about the threats and footage in December 2015. According to The Appeal, Carricato was not reprimanded for his actions despite it being illegal in Pennsylvania to record someone without their consent.
Courtesis claimed she was the victim of retaliation for her complaints and was passed over for promotions. She was reassigned, bullied by other officers in the department, and continued to be harassed by Carricato.
“There exists a culture throughout the department… wherein sexual harassment is not taken seriously and adequate steps are not taken to halt said harassment,” her lawsuit claimed.
In March 2017, the complaint regarding Carricato’s illegal recordings was referred to District Attorney Brian Sinnett. Carricato was placed on administrative leave. Meanwhile, Courtesis and the borough reached a settlement in June of that year that required Gettysburg to pay her more than $213,000. In exchange, Courtesis resigned from the police force due to “irreconcilable differences” and agreed to not make disparaging comments about the borough, the police department, or her former colleague.
Carricato remained under investigation, and, in October 2017, Sinnett informed the police department that his office would not prosecute any cases due to Carricato’s “uncorroborated observations.” The decision prompted officials to fire Carricato on November 13, 2017.Carricato was charged with felony wiretap violation and a misdemeanor count of official oppression just three days later. To avoid jail time and a ban from being a police officer, Carricato participated in the Adams County Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition program in June 2018, according to Penn Live.
Sinnett said that Carricato’s record would not be expunged after completing the program, but that he would still be allowed to work as a police officer. Although Sinnett indicated that Carricato was not interested in working in law enforcement, the officer had filed a grievance seeking his reinstatement with the help of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union 776.The union claimed the borough violated the department’s collective bargaining agreement when it fired Carricato due to Sinnett’s decision as opposed to his actions in illegally recording his conversation with Courtesis. According to The Appeal, the allegations of sexual harassment and the criminal charges filed against Carricato were not included during arbitration.
Arbiter James Darby ruled in May that the police department must rehire Carricato and pay him back pay and benefits. Borough Manager Charles Gable said that the borough plans to appeal the ruling, the Gettysburg Times reported.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.