County Police Detective Brings Federal Civil Rights Suit
Against Larry Schwartz and Thomas Belfiore
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHEN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
DAVID E. BYRNES,
Plainti , 07 Civ. 0811 (CLB)
-against- FIRST AMENDED
THOMAS BELFIORE, individually,
LAWRENCE S. SCHWARTZ,
individually, and the COUNTY OF Jury Trial Demanded
Plainti DAVID E. BYRNES, by his attorneys Lovett & Gould, LLP, for his first
amended complaint respectfully states:
NATURE OF THE ACTION
1. This is an action for compensatory and punitive damages, proximately
resulting from Defendants’ conduct as engaged in jointly and under color of
the laws of the State of New York, for violations of Plaintiff’s right of intimate
association as guaranteed by the First and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. §1983.
2. The Court’s jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§1331, 1343.
3. Plaintiff DAVID E. BYRNES (hereinafter “D. Byrnes” and/or “Plaintiff ”) is
a citizen of the United States, a domiciliary of the State of New York, and a resident
of the Northern Counties. At all times relevant to this complaint he was employed
as a sworn member of the Defendant County’s Department of Public Safety
Services. Byrnes (presently a “Detective”) is the husband of Jacqueline Byrnes
(hereina er alternatively referred to as “J. Byrnes”), a Supervising Caseworker for
Child Protective Services employed by the Defendant County in its Department of
Social Services. D. Byrnes wife Jacqueline is also the plainti in Byrnes v. Mahon,
07 Civ. 0663 (CLB), a First Amendment and Selective Prosecution civil rights
action, which was - led in this Court on January 26, 2007.
4. Defendant THOMAS BELFIORE (hereinafter “Belfiore”), who is sued in
his individual and personal capacities only, at all times relevant to this complaint
was the duly appointed Commissioner of the Westchester County, New York,
Department of Public Safety Services. Belfiore, like his predecessor-in-title (Louis
D’Aliso) is micromanaged and controlled by Defendant Schwartz with respect to
the day-to-day administration of the Department of Public Safety Services.
5. Defendant LAWRENCE S. SCHWARTZ (hereinafter “Schwartz”), who
is sued in his individual and personal capacities only, at all times relevant to this
complaint was the duly appointed Deputy County Executive for the County of
Westchester. As such, and notwithstanding his status as the “Deputy” County
Executive, Schwartz de facto has arrogated to himself (with the knowing
acquiescence of the actual County Executive) the plenary authority and powers
of the elective office of County Executive and thus actually serves as the day-today
hands-on administrator of the various Departments of the County including
Public Safety Services and Social Services. With respect to Public Safety Services
Schwartz personally (commencing in 2005 and continuing to the present) has
sought to arrogate to himself, through Belfiore, complete control over the entire
pistol permit licensing/revocation system in the County of Westchester - - initially
by arranging, albeit unsuccessfully, for state legislation to exclude the current
judicial licensing officers’ (more specically Judge J. Emmet Murphy and Judge
Rori Bellantoni) pivotal role in that system. Subsequent to his failure to secure
the referenced legislation (and at a meeting with Westchester County District
Attorney Janet DiFiore, Westchester County Attorney Charlene Indelicato, Deputy
Westchester County Attorney Lori Alessio, Westchester County Clerk Tim Idoni,
Belfiore, Judge J. Emmet Murphy, and Judge Rori Bellantoni) Schwartz directly
threatened Judges Murphy and Bellantoni to the effect that if they do not acquiesce
in his planned take-over of pistol permit licensing/revocations, he intended to
use or abuse his public office and cause them injury with respect to their judicial
careers. See N.Y. Penal Law §195.00 (Official Misconduct); N.Y. Penal Law
§110.00/135.60(8, 9)(Attempted Coercion in the Third Degree).
6. Defendant COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER (hereinafter “County”) is a
municipal corporate subdivision of the State of New York duly existing by reason
of and pursuant to the laws of said State.
7. For a substantial period of time prior to July of 2005 Plaintiff ’s wife nondisruptively
expressed, within and outside of the County workplace, her factbased
opinions as a concerned citizen/taxpayer that:
a. Systemic under-staffing by the County and/or the County Executive of
the Child Protective Unit (hereinafter “Unit”) in the County’s Department of Social
Services presented a clear and present danger to the health and safety of physically
and/or emotionally abused children within the Department’s jurisdiction,
b. Systemic under-budgeting of the Unit by the County and/or the
County Executive, resulting in a grossly insufficient staffing, left those children
continuously at serious risk of physical injury and/or death at the hands of
abusive parents and/or guardians, and inter alia,
c. Systemic deficiencies in the Department of Social Service’s training
capabilities and/or programs, resulting in substantially less-than-competent staff
in the Unit, continuously left those children at serious risk of physical injury
and/or death due to abusive parents and/or guardians.
8. Following the scalding deaths on or about July 29, 2005, of two infants
subject to the jurisdiction of the Unit, which deaths were the proximate result
of the under- budgeting, under-staffing and systemic deficiencies referenced in
the preceding paragraph “7”, Schwartz acting by and through County Executive
Andrew Spano publicly albeit falsely blamed J. Byrnes for those children’s deaths
and in that connection announced that she will be demoted.
9. Following that public condemnation of J. Byrnes, Schwartz directed the
County Commissioner of Social Services (Kevin Mahon) to commence against J.
Byrnes a civil service disciplinary proceeding with the object of punishing her for
her expressions of opinion referenced supra and chilling her in the prospective
exercise of her First Amendment rights regarding those matters. Mahon agreed
to do so and with the assistance of Schwartz counsel (including Deputy County
Attorney Lori Alessio) Mahon instituted the punitive proceeding.
10. During the course of J. Byrnes’ ensuing disciplinary hearing, and because
her previous expressions of opinion regarding the above-referenced matters of
public concern were widely reported in the media, Defendants determined to
take further retaliatory action against the Byrnes family - - this time targeting
Plaintiff for retribution.
11. In that connection and with respect to Schwartz’ efforts to take control
of pistol permit licensing/revocations in the County, during the Fall of 2006
Schwartz obtained from Belfiore a list of all full-carry pistol permit holders - -
review of which revealed to Schwartz that J. Byrnes had such a full-carry permit
as issued to her by Judge J. Emmet Murphy.
12. Under the circumstances Schwartz directed Belfiore to punitively revoke
J. Byrnes’ full-carry pistol permit - - an objective that Belfiore subsequently
learned was impossible to realize by reason of its outright illegality.
13. At or about the same time Plaintiff made application for a full-carry
pistol permit. When Schwartz learned of that application he instructed Belfiore
to prevent issuance of that permit - - another objective impossible to realize by
reason of its outright illegality.
14. Frustrated by his inability to have J. Byrnes’ permit revoked and/or to
block issuance to D. Byrnes of a full-carry pistol permit, Schwartz then entered
into a plan with Belfiore by reason of which Plaintiff was “investigated” with
respect to the issuance of J. Byrnes full-carry pistol permit. Despite the absence of
any evidence whatsoever regarding misconduct and/or incompetence by Plaintiff,
Belfiore with the concurrence and approval of Schwartz directed the Commanding
Officer of the Special Investigations Unit of the Department of Public Safety
Services (Lieutenant Thomas A. Gleason) to in-writing inform Plaintiff that:
a. Allegations of misconduct with respect to him had resulted in
findings that the supposed misconduct was “substantiated”,
b. Belfiore, without benefit of a due process disciplinary hearing, “has
approved these findings”, and,
c. Belfiore had pre-determined not only Plaintiff ’s guilt but also
determined that the punishment to be imposed (demotion) was going to result
in Plaintiff ’s: “ return to the civil service status of Police Officer”.
15. In connection with and as apart of Schwartz and Belfiore’s retaliatory
i) Summarily removed Plaintiff from the Pistol Permit Unit, where he
had been continuously assigned for approximately eight years, and,
ii) Re-assigned Plaintiff to the General Investigations Unit (hereinafter
“GIU”) of the Department of Public Safety Services.
16. As a result of that re-assignment:
a. In the GIU Plaintiff was and continues to be required to work everrotating
shifts, including shifts that include weekends, holidays, and nights,
b. Plaintiff was deprived of his Monday-to-Friday, day-time shift that he
had during his tenure in the Pistol Permit Unit, and,
c. Plaintiff ’s familial inter-relationship with J. Byrnes has been
deliberately impaired by reason of inter alia his rotating shifts, night-time duty
assignments, holiday and/or weekend work assignments which, among other
consequences, have prevented Plaintiff and his wife from being together on
special religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
17. Plaintiff ’s involuntary re-assignment to the GIU is regarded by
both Plaintiff ’s co-workers and Plaintiff to be punitive, a de facto demotion,
degrading, and a major set-back to Plaintiff ’s career path within the Department
of Public Safety Services since assignment to the Pistol Permit Unit is regarded
by members of Plaintiff ’s Department (given the steady day-time, week-day
shifts) as prestigious and enviable.
18. As a proximate result Defendants are currently pursuing, by means of
Senior Assistant County Attorney (Matthew Gallagher), disciplinary charges
with a pre-ordained objective of punitively terminating Plaintiff ’s employment
and financially crippling the Byrnes’ family.
19. By reason of Defendants’ conduct Plaintiff has been caused to suffer: a
substantial and devastating impairment of his marital relationship with his wife,
Jacqueline; emotional upset; anxiety; public humiliation; public embarrassment;
public shame; pecuniary losses; irreparable damage to his professional career in
law enforcement; irreparable damage to his reputation, both professional and
personal; and he has otherwise been rendered sick and sore.
AS AND FOR A CAUSE OF ACTION
20. Repeats and realleges as if fully set forth the allegations of fact contained
in paragraphs “1” to “18”, inclusive.
21. Under the premises Defendants’ retaliatory conduct violated Plaintiff ’s
right of intimate association as guaranteed by the First and/or Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. §1983.
WHEREFORE a judgment is respectfully demanded:
a. Awarding against the individually named Defendants such punitive
damages as the jury may impose,
b. Awarding against all Defendants such compensatory damages as the
jury may determine,
c. Awarding against all Defendants reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, and,
d. Granting such other and further relief as to the Court seems just and proper.
Dated: White Plains, N.Y.
April 12, 2007
LOVETT & GOULD, LLP
Jonathan Lovett (4854)
Attorneys for Plaintiff
222 Bloomingdale Road
White Plains, N.Y. 10605