Niskayuna Deputy Chief Mike Stevens has sent a notice of claim to the town of Niskayuna attorney and clerk indicating his intentions to file a lawsuit against the town, according to officials.
Stevens is planning to sue the town for defamation of character, libel, slander, and for violations of both Public Officers Law and Civil Service Law, said Stevens’ attorney Michael McDermott of Albany-based O’Connell and Aronowitz.
The claim comes after the town released several documents on Sept. 24 pertaining to an investigation into Stevens, alleging he was involved in several incidents that created a hostile work environment.
Stevens is accused of asking a pregnant cop if she would be getting an abortion and of calling another coworker, who was Muslim, a terrorist. Supervisor Yasmine Syed sent a letter of counsel to Stevens stating his actions in each case were inappropriate and telling him he would need to take sensitivity, bias and communication training by the end of the year or face charges again.
Stevens had until Friday to sign the letter.
Syed said she received the signed letter of counsel from Stevens Friday, but that along with his signature came a note and a courtesy notice of claim.
“At the bottom of the letter of acceptance of counsel there was an asterisk with a note that was put in,” she said. “I don’t have it at the ready at the moment but [it said] something to the effect of that he signed the document but that it didn’t necessarily mean he accepted the contents of it.”
Syed said she was not expecting the additional note or notice of claim from Stevens.
She also said she needed to check with town attorney Paul Briggs on whether the document could be released.
The formal notice of claim was mailed Friday, McDermott said. Stevens now has a year and 90 days from Sept. 24, or almost until the end of 2022, to file his lawsuit against the town.
McDermott said the potential lawsuit comes after the town decided to forgo a disciplinary hearing against Stevens that was scheduled to take place publicly, and instead handled the situation internally. The town then released the information about the investigation while he was on vacation, McDermott said.
Stevens had been ready to argue his case at the disciplinary hearing, McDermott said.
“They pulled the rug from under him,” he said. “Then they defamed him without giving him an opportunity to respond.”
Syed said the town has not yet set up the training Stevens is required to take by the end of this year, but she is confident they will be able to provide him with enough time to do it.