Back to All Press Release

Suffolk NYCLU Announces Settlement In Northport Free Speech Case

The Suffolk County Chapter of the NYCLU today announces a settlement in Suchochi v. Village of Northport, a case involving the free speech rights of public employees.

“The Suffolk NYCLU hopes this settlement serves as a reminder for public officials that their primary responsibility is protecting the rights of the public, not abusing their authority for personal grudges,” said Jared Feuer, Executive Director of the Suffolk NYCLU.

Michael Suchochi was denied the seasonal position of Dockmaster in 2004, despite being offered the position from 2001-2003. The Suffolk NYCLU charged that the denial was due to Suchochi’s protest of the suspension of Northport’s police chief, Ric Bruckenthal. During the winter of 2003-2004, Suchochi parked his Jeep with mounted signs stating, “We support Ric and our Police Force” in front of The Northport Sweet Shop, owned by the Mayor of Northport, Peter Panarites.

When questioned why he was not reoffered employment during a May 18, 2004 meeting of the Northport Board of Trustees, Mayor Panarites told Suchochi, “I don’t compliment people who put up signs on cars and harass people.” After the meeting, Mayor Panarites made additional comments about Suchochi to a reporter for The Northport Observer, stating, “He can express himself once in a while but to keep doing it day in and day out is ridiculous. That’s not the kind of person I want to manage our docks.”

The Suffolk NYCLU charged the Village and Mayor Panarites with denying the constitutional rights of Mr. Suchochi by refusing him employment due to First Amendment protected activity. The case was settled on June 2, 2005, and the Village of Northport has agreed to provide financial reparation of $15,000 to Suchochi.

“My right to free speech should never have been violated, and I am glad that the Village has been forced to right the wrong,” said Suchochi.

Alan Polsky, an attorney based in Bohemia, NY, served as cooperating counsel in this case.

The Suffolk NYCLU is the local presence of the New York Civil Liberties Union. With a membership of 4,000, the Chapter works across Suffolk County in courts, local governments and with local advocacy groups to protect the rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by law.

As bold as the spirit of New York, we are the NYCLU.
© 2024 New York
Civil Liberties Union