NISKAYUNA — A lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County by former Niskayuna Comptroller Ismat Alam alleges unlawful, discriminatory and retaliatory acts against her during her employment with the town.
The suit against Niskayuna Town Supervisor Jaime Puccioni, former interim town police chief Fran Wall and the town seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as back and front pay from Alam’s stint with the town, which began on Aug. 1, 2020, and ended on Jan. 11, 2022 when the plaintiff was terminated by Puccioni while Alam was on family leave.
The suit, filed on Oct. 5 by Alam attorney William Lowe of Bolaños Lowe, alleges that Puccioni’s termination of Alam was “in retaliation for the plaintiff’s prior good-faith, protected activities in seeking to protect herself and her family from the discriminatory and intimidating conduct of defendant Wall.”
Niskayuna Town Attorney Alaina Finan said on Wednesday that the town plans to contest Alam’s lawsuit in court.
“We do not believe there is merit to the suit,” she said. “I can’t comment any further because there is pending litigation, but we’ll definitely contest it because we don’t believe there’s any merit to it. We look forward to dispelling the allegations in court.”
Finan said she has directed Puccioni not to comment on the pending litigation.
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In October 2020, Alam recommended that the town hire an outside consulting firm to conduct a racial equity audit of the Niskayuna Police Department. After the town board passed a resolution in November 2020 to approve the audit, Alam, Wall and former Niskayuna supervisor Yasmine Syed participated in a meeting in which Wall allegedly threatened to kill Alam if the audit firm went after the town’s police officers.
Alam subsequently filed a workplace violence incident report against Wall on Jan. 17, 2021, alleging that Wall had threatened her on multiple occasions and had targeted Alam because of her religious and ethnic status. Alam, born in Pakistan, is a Muslim woman of color.
Wall resigned from her post in May 2021 amid an investigation from the town’s Hazard Reduction Team regarding her alleged threats against Alam.
Wall subsequently filed a defamation suit against Alam in November 2021 and a libel suit against the former comptroller in May 2022, claiming that the charges Alam had made against her were false and caused damage to Wall’s reputation.
Wall did not return calls for comment on the suit as of press time. Wall’s attorney in the libel and slander cases, Paul Davenport of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna LLP, said on Wednesday that he had not been informed of Alam’s lawsuit against Wall, Puccioni and the town.
In December 2021, Alam took a medical leave of absence from the town to assist her husband, who was dealing with a medical issue, a leave approved by then-Supervisor Syed.
According to Alam’s suit, when Puccioni took office in January 2022 the new supervisor terminated Alam without explanation.
“At the time of these actions, there was no discipline, performance-based counseling, supervisory criticism, or related concerns pending with respect to plaintiff’s performance,” the lawsuit states. “Upon information and belief, the plaintiff was under no investigation, inquiry, or review with regard to her performance as Comptroller and Human Resources and Compliance Manager.”
The suit contends that Alam’s firing was in retaliation for her efforts to protect herself from Wall’s alleged discrimination and intimidation and claims that the plaintiff’s termination was further in retaliation for Alam’s medical leave from the town.
The suit charges that the defendant’s acts were in violation of the Human Rights Law and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The suit is seeking a judgment of an unspecified sum from the defendants for punitive and compensatory damages, back and front pay, attorney’s fees and pre-and post-judgment interest on all potential monetary awards.
Alam and Lowe did not respond to inquiries for comment on the suit as of press time.
Prior to her stint in Niskayuna, Alam held posts as the city of Schenectady commissioner of finance and administration and the city of Albany budget director.
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I’m pretty sure that Chief Wall did no such thing as threatening her with death. That is not only ludicrous but totally uncharacteristic of Chief Wall. Give me a break!!