FBI Settles Lawsuit Filed By Long-time Agent Against Supervisors
The Department of Justice has tentatively agreed to settle a lawsuit made by a Connecticut FBI agent who alleged his supervisors discriminated and retaliated against him over the course of his employment with the agency. Attorneys for agent Kurt Siuzdak and the government disclosed the settlement to a federal judge in Bridgeport, but the terms were not released, and the deal must be formally signed. In court documents, officials had denied Siuzdak’s allegations.
Siuzdak is a lawyer and a 21-year veteran of the FBI who worked in New York City before moving to the New Haven field office in 2009. His career includes having responded to the World Trade Center crisis. Siuzdak’s 2014 lawsuit, which originally named only then-Attorney General Eric Holder and now names current Attorney General Jeff Sessions as well, alleged the agent was subjected to retaliation by his New Haven supervisors after he filed equal opportunity complaints beginning in 2013 pertaining to age and gender discrimination.
“This is an organization that he believes in. It’s an organization that is very powerful. And he wants it to be better,” Siuzdak’s wife, Heather Clinton, said. “It’s about integrity for him.”
Siuzdak accused the former agent in charge in New Haven, Kimberly Mertz, and the current agent in charge, Patricia Ferrick, of not only limiting his ability to pursue management opportunities but instigating baseless internal investigations due to the complaints he filed.
After he filed an equal opportunity complaint, for example, Metz filed a follow-up complaint alleging Siuzdak was using a bureau vehicle for personal transportation, a serious violation. After an investigation, Siuzdak was told the claim was unsubstantiated.
When Siuzdak applied for another position, an FBI manager he had been working within Washington issued a non-recommendation, saying Siuzdak had not demonstrated leadership skills. Siuzdak said the retaliation continued even after he filed his lawsuit seeking damages, attorney fees and an order that officials discontinue discriminatory conduct.
Siuzdak also claimed FBI employment surveys in 2012 and 2013 gave the Connecticut office low ratings for supervisors, employee treatment, and morale, which further substantiates his lawsuit. A January 2013 inspection of the office’s violent-crime task forces by FBI headquarters found that, in New Haven, “senior management was described as leading by fear and intimidation, negatively impacting both internal personnel and the liaison relationships with the FBI’s external partners.”
Former Director James Comey, who had also been an attorney with Bridgewater Associates and still considers Connecticut his home, paid a visit to the New Haven field office near the end of 2013 and apologized to employees for “the failure of the FBI’s executive management to correct the leadership failures” in the state.
Comey said further, following this visit, “We’re in a good place in Connecticut. It was mostly a positive discussion about how they perceive law enforcement relationships to have improved, particularly under the leadership I now have and have had for two years here in Connecticut, and that’s a good thing…As you would expect in the Nutmeg State, it was a thoughtful and rich conversation.”