MERIDEN — Former City Manager Guy Scaife has filed an intent to sue the city claiming that he was wrongfully terminted.
Scaife’s notice, filed by Trumbull attorney Heena Kapadia, alleges city officials retaliated against him because he uncovered wrongdoing by Finance Director Michael Lupkas. It also includes accusations against Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn, City Councilor Miguel Castro and City Councilor Sonja Jelks.
Those named directly in the filing, a step needed before a lawsuit, have denied any wrongdoing. The notice also accuses City Council leadership of enabling the retaliation campaign.
The Democratic council majority voted to terminate Scaife on Dec. 18 over “escalating discord around city hall,” said City Council Majority Leader David Lowell. He added, “the decision was not about any one event or situation.”
Scaife’s employment agreement allowed the council to terminate him “without cause” with a six-month payout of his annual salary. Scaife earned $168,300, entitling him to receive $84,150 for the termination.
Scaife was hired by the City Council on Aug. 1, 2016. While councilors praised Scaife for implementing new technology in City Hall, tensions between Scaife and department heads became public in the last months of his tenure.
Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski submitted her resignation in November, telling councilors she was interviewed by the FBI regarding Scaife and could not work with him. At the time, Scaife said he was confident the FBI would find no evidence of wrongdoing on his part, although he had no additional knowledge as to the purpose of the investigation.
Scaife also emailed the council just days before Quinn was reappointed in December as corporation counsel, stating he could not work with Quinn moving forward.
When Scaife tried to present his findings about Lupkas to the full Finance Committee in April, then-chairman Castro tried to block the presentation but was forced to reverse his position after a challenge by Scaife and City Council Clerk Lori Canney, according to the intent to sue. It also alleges Castro violated open meeting rules by secretly meeting with council members to build a consensus to table a resolution by Scaife to fund capital improvement projects, and that Lupkas and Quinn had participated in the discussions.
Quinn said he read Scaife’s filing and, without mentioning specifics, denied all allegations related to his actions.
Lupkas has refuted Scaife’s claims about financial impropriety in the past and said Wednesday that he stands by those responses.
“I look forward to the conclusion of this chapter of Meriden history and look to continue to move the city forward,” Lupkas said.
Castro said Scaife’s claims have no merit.
“These allegations are categorically unfounded with no legitimacy,” Castro said. “Scaife is trying to cast a negative cloud over the city.”
Mayor Kevin Scarpati, a Scaife supporter, said Scaife’s intention to sue the city shouldn’t surprise anyone because Scaife made his feelings known.
Scarpati said the city’s legal department has notified him of the pending lawsuit. He also had to sign documents vowing not to tamper with or destroy e-mails and other potential evidence.
“It’s a shame we had to get to this point,” Scarpati said.
The intent to sue accuses Jelks of forwarding “sensitive” emails to the media and local NAACP. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.