Former facilities manager sues Trumbull school board

TRUMBULL — The former facilities manager for the Trumbull schools has sued the Board of Education after he was let go from his position earlier this year.

According to the complaint filed May 18 in Bridgeport Superior Court, Mark Deming alleges that the school system breached an express contract in terminating his employment effective February 7.

A request for comment on the suit and the reason for Deming’s dismissal left with the board’s attorney was not immediately returned.

Deming had been facilities director since July 1, 2014. He is represented in the lawsuit by former Trumbull First Selectman Timothy Herbst and is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

On June 23, the school system, through attorney Richard Buturla, filed for a 30-day extension to respond to the suit.

In the 19-page complaint, Herbst laid out a timeline from Deming’s hiring to his dismissal, arguing that the June 19, 2014, letter in which former School Superintendent Gary Cialfi informed Deming that he was the board’s choice constituted a contract. In the letter, Cialfi congratulated Deming and informed him that in addition to an annual salary of $125,000, Deming would also receive benefits including a $225,000 life insurance policy and a time-off policy that included 20 vacation days, 18 sick days, five personal days, five sick family member days and 14 paid holidays off.

The letter was dated June 19, 2014, and Deming signed it the same day. Over the next five years, the board allotted Deming annual salary increases of between 2 percent and 2.35 percent. By 2019, he was earning a salary of $139,163.

Herbst said the 2014 work agreement did not specify that Deming’s employment was at-will.

“Indeed, the board did not ever communicate with the Plaintiff that his employment...was asserted by the Board to be employment at will,” he wrote.

Relying on the annual employment letters, Deming agreed each year to continue his employment with the board, Herbst wote.

This, therefore, was “employment pursuant to an express annual contract of employment, not employment at will,” Herbst asserted.

That employment ended Jan. 24, when Interim Supt. Ralph Iassogna wrote to Deming informing him that his employment was terminated effective Feb. 7. Deming, through Herbst, replied with a Feb. 5 letter contesting the termination and stating that it would constitute a breach of contract. Neither of those letters was included in the complaint.

The board went ahead with the termination, and as a result, Deming has not received the compensation and other benefits that he believes he is entitled to, the suit states.

In a second count, Herbst asserted that Deming’s employment was subject to an implied annual contract based on the two parties’ behavior.

Herbst wrote that Deming has been an “exemplary” employee, taking over at a time when the schools faced a multitude of issues, including incomplete projects and uncontrolled overtime costs.

Deming’s predecessor Al Barbarotta, sued Herbst, then Trumbull’s First Selectman, for toritous interference after a deal between Barbarotta’s company, AFB Construction Management, and the Trumbull Loves Children preschool fell through. The two sides settled the suit for $20,000 in 2015.