SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Two South Kingstown Police Department personnel have filed complaints with the town, alleging that a lieutenant in the department pointed a loaded firearm at a sergeant and sexually harassed a dispatcher.
The letters of claim were presented to the Town Council Jan. 2 by attorney V. Edward Formisano, the lawyer for both of the complaining police employees.
One complaint details alleged incidents between Lt. Scott Orton and Sgt. Michael Bronson that took place between January and December of 2019.
In the first incident, Bronson claims Orton pointed a loaded firearm at Bronson’s head and said “that he should ‘kick’ Sgt. Bronson’s ‘ass,’” according to the document. Bronson claims the incident happened in the presence of at least six other department members.
The complaint alleges that Orton gave Bronson a poor annual evaluation in February and that when Bronson sought a traffic sergeant’s position in May, a recommendation by Orton contributed to his not getting assigned to the position. Bronson also was denied participation in a December training program for supervisors.
Bronson filed an internal affairs complaint against Orton in July and Orton was placed on leave, according to the claim. He returned to work in November.
On Nov. 26, the claim alleges, both men were at roll call when Orton, who was behind Bronson, motioned toward Bronson “as if he had a concealed firearm.”
In the second letter of claim received by the town, dispatcher Deanna Marler alleges that starting in February 2019, Orton began to sexually harass her.
“Lt. Orton’s inappropriate conduct was severe and pervasive and members of the department were aware of the conduct,” the claim said. “Despite this, the conduct continued.”
The complaint also claims that after Marler objected to the alleged conduct, Orton retaliated against the dispatcher by yelling at her, making disparaging comments to her and telling her she was “lucky to have a job.”
Both letters of claim say the police personnel have state and federal law claims against the town, and that each has “suffered personal injuries, has and will continue to endure great pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages and has been forced to incur expenses for legal services.”
The Town Council voted Jan. 13 to refer both claims to Timothy Cavazza, special legal counsel for labor management issues, the town solicitor, and the town’s insurance carrier.