I-Team: Police captain likely to sue Cranston for more than $5 million

Capt. Todd Patalano

In a letter hand-delivered Tuesday to the Cranston City Council, police Capt. Todd Patalano's attorney laid out some of the details that would ultimately be part of a nearly $5.5 million federal lawsuit against the city for a violation of his client's constitutional rights.

Patalano stayed home for 20 months collecting a nearly $100,000-a-year salary for charges that he called "bogus" and that he was eventually cleared of by the state police.

Patalano is an 18-year veteran of the force. In 2012, he was put on paid administrative leave by former police Chief Marco Palombo.

During an exclusive interview with the I-Team in May, Patalano said the 11 disciplinary charges against him were trumped up because the former chief wanted him out of Internal Affairs.

"When you have to worry about the people you work with setting you up, that's a problem," Patalano said.

Tuesday's claim to the City Council said the police captain secretly taped his colleagues in order to protect himself. Documents and recordings allege other high ranking officers, including the former chief, lied.

"Col. Palombo, Maj. John Schaffran and Maj. Robert Ryan then embarked upon a series of additional bogus Internal Affairs investigations against Capt. Patalano to put more pressure on him and vindictively attack him further," wrote Patalano's attorney, Joe Penza.

Other details allege Schaffran and Lt. Sean Carmody made statements under oath during a Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights hearing that contradicted taped statements made to Patalano.

The City Council will now have to grapple with the potential cost of the case. Patalano's legal fees top $103,000. Between about $170,000 in salary to stay home for 20 months and the $175,000 the city spent on an attorney to prosecute the now baseless case, the total is about $448,000, much of it already picked up by taxpayers.

"I want to assure the taxpayers of Cranston that the City will vigorously defend itself against the outrageous claims made by Mr. Patalano in his lawsuit. Patalano's demand for millions from the taxpayers shows he is more interested in serving himself than in serving the residents that he is sworn to protect. Cranston taxpayers will not be an ATM machine for Mr. Patalano and his lawyer Mr. Penza," Fung said in a statement late Tuesday.

The mayor's feelings may be known, but the question becomes what will the City Council do? Council President John Lanni was reached by phone Tuesday and said he was "frustrated."

"This all could have been avoided if the mayor had a more hands on approach," said the councilman.

In his claim, attorney Penza said he will wait 40 days before filing any lawsuit. Former chief Palombo referred all questions to his attorney, John Tarantino.