LOWELL -- Former library assistant Diane Cloutier has raised the stakes of her ongoing legal battle by filing a wide-ranging lawsuit against the city of Lowell and current and former city employees in Middlesex Superior Court.
The complaint filed Friday alleges the defendants discriminated against Cloutier because of a vision problem and retaliated against Cloutier for challenging their conduct by terminating her, among other actions. The suit alleges that Cloutier's civil rights were violated, she was defamed and the defendants' engaged in a civil conspiracy.
Cloutier also alleges the city invaded her privacy with the taxpayer-funded video surveillance conducted of her by a private investigator, a claim that includes a new allegation that a GPS tracker was placed on her car to track her movements.
Besides the city, the named defendants are former City Manager Bernie Lynch, City Solicitor Christine O'Connor, Human Relations Director Mary Callery, Worker's Compensation Agent Karen Gagnon, Library Director Victoria Woodley and Assistant Library Director Susan Fougstedt.
They are all sued both in their individual and official capacity.
Cloutier, 52, also names "John Doe" and "Jane Roe" as defendants, whom the lawsuit describes as employees and/or agents of the city who may be discovered as the case progresses.
Cloutier, a Lowell resident and 15-year Pollard Memorial library employee, had previously filed two claims against the city and city employees with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the first in the winter of 2012.
"For years now, my attorney and I have tried to get the city to reign in the people who did this and hold them accountable for their discriminatory and retaliatory treatment towards me," Cloutier said.
"The city turned a blind eye and things only got worse as the wrongdoers continued to harm me and get away with it. Now we will ask a jury to hold these people accountable and for justice to be done."
Cloutier is seeking back pay and front pay, as well as compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees and costs.
O'Connor said Monday morning the city had yet to receive and review the lawsuit, so she declined to comment.
O'Connor has previously denied the city has discriminated and retaliated against Cloutier. She also has denied the city terminated her. The city recently claimed earlier this summer that Cloutier, who was off the payroll since late last fall, abandoned her job.
Library Director Woodley declined to comment. Lynch, who was city manager when Cloutier was allegedly terminated and under surveillance, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Lana Sullivan, Cloutier's attorney, said her client is taking her case to Superior Court because most of the alleged violations of law cannot be filed with the state discrimination commission.
Sullivan, of Davids & Cohen in Wellesley, also highlighted that while the state commission can't award punitive damages, they can be awarded in Superior Court. Punitive damages are seen as punishment when defendants' conduct is especially egregious.
The lawsuit is the latest development in legal feud that has cost the city more than $200,000 to date, a sum that includes defending against claims filed by a former Cloutier co-worker who says she was harassed because of her friendship with Cloutier.
Many of the allegations in Cloutier's suit stem from events surrounding her alleged termination.
Last Oct. 29, Cloutier says Callery and Gagnon told her in front of colleagues and patrons that she could no longer work at the library because of her doctor's medical restrictions and told her to gather her stuff and leave. They allegedly escorted her out.
Soon after, Cloutier was taken off the payroll and had her health insurance terminated.
All the defendants are named in all 10 counts, but the defamation count. That count names just Callery and Gagnon.
The suit alleges their actions on Oct. 29 "gave Cloutier's colleagues and patrons the false impression there was something wrong with her professional performance" and that she had done something "grievously wrong."
The lawsuit's two different invasion of privacy counts stem from city-funded surveillance conducted of Cloutier and her 79-year-old mother that began last October and continued even after Cloutier was off the city payroll in November and December, according to Cloutier.
The footage shot by Absolute Investigations of East Bridgewater included use of a "telescopic lens to intrude into Cloutier's and her mother's private activities in their home at all hours of the day," according to the suit.
Cloutier also alleges that a GPS tracker was affixed to her car, saying that when physical sight was lost of her vehicle, its position was immediately located sometimes miles away.
Robert Sparks, Absolute's president, on Monday referred questions to Lowell's legal department.
O'Connor declined to comment. City Manager Kevin Murphy previously said a section of the video was "inappropriate" and the city will not use Absolute Investigations again.
The city is no longer using the private attorney who had previously defended library employees against Cloutier's claims and a claim filed by former co-worker Donna Deuso at a rate of $425 an hour. Murphy said an in-house attorney would be used moving forward.
O'Connor would not comment on whether the city will have to cover Lynch's legal fees. Lynch's employment contract included an indemnification clause.
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