Pension whistleblower’s suit dismissed, but may return

A federal judge dismissed without prejudice this week claims that Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo’s office retaliated against a former attorney for the Retirement Services Division, but the matter may not be settled.

Judge Stefan Underhill, who ruled from the bench Thursday in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, also invited Virginia Brown of Avon to restructure and resubmit her complaint against the comptroller’s office by Jan. 15. Brown indicated she would do so.

And the judge also encouraged Brown to voluntarily return copies of certain documents she took when she left the comptroller’s office, warning he otherwise would order her to do so.

Underhill rejected one of the foundation’s of Brown’s claims: that she faced retaliation after the comptroller’s office improperly refused to follow her legal advice regarding the pension program.

Underhill determined the office could hold a different legal interpretation of the statutes and regulations governing pensions than Brown did.

“This lawsuit – lacking facts and clear allegations – was destined for dismissal,” Lembo wrote in a statement Thursday. I am grateful that Judge Underhill promptly dismissed the case in its entirety.”

Brown’s counsel, Hartford attorney Todd Steigman, declined to comment Friday.

Brown has asserted her First Amendment right to free speech was violated after she alleged corruption and malfeasance in the handling of millions of dollars of pension funds.

Underhill’s ruling did not address the merit’s of Brown’s claims regarding the handling of pension funds.

Lembo has insisted neither he nor his staff retaliated against Brown. He also has said that the lawsuit  focuses on practices that pre-date his administration and that these issues either have been or are being corrected.

Linda Yelmini, former head of the state Office of Labor Relations also was named in the lawsuit, as was the State Employees Retirement Commission. Hartford attorney Michael Rose, who represents both parties, declined to comment.

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