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By DON STACOM, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
8:54 PM EDT, August 28, 2011
NEW BRITAIN —
In a deposition taken in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city police, a woman claims that about 15 years ago a police officer — now a top commander — frequently had sex with her while he was on duty.
In the deposition, Michelle Drenski claims that Anthony Paventi, who was a patrol officer at the time, met her for consensual sex while on duty and in uniform, sometimes showing up in a marked patrol car.
Paventi, now a captain, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. In previous court documents, the city has denied any harassment by its police commanders.
Drenski, of New Britain, acknowledged that the relationship was consensual and that she never lodged any complaint with police or city officials at the time. She said she came forward with the story after reading that several current or former female police officers are pursuing federal lawsuits against Paventi and other commanders alleging sexual harassment and discrimination.
Paventi, one of the top four commanders in the 140-member department, heads the professional standards division and oversees internal affairs complaints.
In the deposition taken Aug. 2, Drenski said Paventi asked her for a date after she met him at police headquarters 14 or 15 years ago. She said that over the next few months they had sex at several locations when Paventi was on duty, including on the hood of a patrol car at Martha Hart Park and in the bathroom of Holy Cross School when Paventi was working at the school carnival. She said she broke up with him when he tried to take her to a Berlin Turnpike motel with a second woman.
During the deposition, Assistant Corporation Counsel Irena Urbaniak asked Drenski if she'd be willing to tell her story to police internal affairs investigators. Chief William Gagliardi did not return a call to answer whether police are looking into Drenski's accusations or who would handle the investigation. Typically Paventi would be in charge of such cases.
One of the plaintiffs in the sexual harassment lawsuit, veteran Officer Paula Keller, said that Paventi sent unwelcome "personal" text messages two years ago, and that she was passed over for special assignments after rejecting his advances. She has also accused Gagliardi and Capt. Dennis Beatty, the patrol division commander, of violating New Britain's "zero-tolerance" sex harassment policy by refusing to investigate or discipline Paventi.
Some police officers say the department's command staff has allowed a culture of bias, sexual harassment and favoritism by supervisors who target out-of-favor officers for discipline while covering for friends. Mayor Timothy Stewart has said that's not true.
Keller's attorney, Kelly Rommel, said Drenski's story indicates a pattern of behavior by Paventi, but didn't elaborate. Rommel, a partner of attorney Norm Pattis, represents all four female plaintiffs and a patrol sergeant in their suits against the city and police department.
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