Mark Sommaruga

Mark Sommaruga

Pullman & Comley, LLC

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How to Respond to FOIA Requests For Overall Teacher Summative Ratings?

It has come to our attention that certain school districts in Connecticut have already received requests under the Freedom of Information Act [“FOIA”] for access to overall district and school level summative ratings of all...more

10/20/2014 - Department of Education FOIA Public Schools School Districts Teachers

Use Of Police Reports By School District In The Aftermath Of The Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling

Police reports are a practical tool for school districts in investigating (and countering) both student and employee misconduct. The Connecticut Supreme Court has resolved an intense debate about what law enforcement...more

9/29/2014 - Arrest and Conviction Records Disclosure Employer Liability Issues Law Enforcement School Districts Students Willful Misconduct

Residency and “Illegal Alien Status” Are Not Mutually Exclusive for School Accommodations: A Friendly Reminder From Washington...

It is worth remembering that when determining if someone is a resident of your school district, the fact that someone may not actually be a legal resident of this nation is irrelevant. In order to underscore this fact, the...more

9/24/2014 - Department of Education DOJ Non-Resident Aliens Public Schools Residency Requirements School Districts

Don’t Make Promises That You Cannot Keep: Greenwich Silver Shield Association v. Town of Greenwich, the FOIA and Discrimination...

Investigations in the public sector confront the competing demands of employee privacy rights and the public’s “right to know” under the Freedom of Information Act [“FOIA”]. Another decision by the Freedom of Information...more

9/23/2014 - Disclosure Requirements Discrimination Due Process Employer Liability Issues FOIA Harassment Internal Investigations Invasion of Privacy Law Enforcement Personnel Records Public Entities

Loose Lips Sink Ships: The Limits of the Attorney-Client Privilege and the Dangers of “Public” Reliance Upon Your Attorney’s...

Public agencies often secure opinions from legal counsel to guide their actions. However, these agencies should be aware that what they say in public about the advice given may jeopardize the confidentiality of the legal...more

9/11/2014 - Attorney-Client Privilege Confidentiality FOIA Public Entities Public Meetings

Lies and Unemployment Compensation Proceedings – You Cannot Get Sued Again

A typical part of a contentious employment termination matter is the inevitable unemployment compensation claim. While a multiplicity of claims may emanate from the ugliness of job separation, the Connecticut courts...more

9/10/2014 - Defamation Employer Liability Issues Hiring & Firing Termination Unemployment Unemployment Compensation System

Alert: Policy Revisions Due to New Laws

This Alert is intended to give a general explanation of 2014 legislative enactments of the Connecticut General Assembly that may impact your board of education policies. For more detailed and individualized assistance with...more

8/28/2014 - Board of Education New Legislation Public Schools State and Local Government

The Police Have The Right To Remain Silent Too: The Supreme Court Rules On The Disclosure Of Police Reports Under The FOIA

The Connecticut Supreme Court has resolved an intense debate about what law enforcement agencies are required to release with regard to arrest records and associated reports. This decision could affect the ability of school...more

8/28/2014 - FOIA Police Public Records

Summary of 2014 Connecticut Legislative Enactments Affecting The Public Schools and Public-Sector Employers

In This Issue: - Interpreters Standards For Students With Hearing Impairments - Preschool And DCF - Health Assessment Forms for Use by Youth Camps and Day Care Providers - English Language Learner...more

8/18/2014 - Public Employees Public Employers Public Schools

Blood is Thicker Than Water: The Obligation To Bargain Over Nepotism Policies

It seems sensible for an employer to have a nepotism policy restricting the circumstances where an employee may supervise a family member (or make employment decisions such as compensation, discipline, evaluation, or...more

8/11/2014 - Compliance DOL Family Businesses Family Members

Just The Facts: Charter Schools (and Cutting Through Some Myths and Hot Air)

As anyone reading the newspapers can observe, Connecticut charter schools are receiving some unwanted attention these days due to: 1) a myriad of issues involving a charter school management company; and 2) virulent attacks...more

8/6/2014 - Charter Schools Discrimination FOIA FOIC Legislative Agendas Special Education

Not My Brother’s Keeper: Varley v. Regional School District No. 4 and A School District’s Responsibility For “Free Speech” Claims...

When entering into contacts with vendors, school districts hope that 1) the vendor will comply with the law, and 2) in any event, the vendor will be responsible for its own employment-related disputes. In Varley v. Regional...more

7/24/2014 - Contractors Employer Liability Issues Free Speech Governmental Liability Hiring & Firing Retaliation School Districts Vendors Vicarious Liability

Tales From The Green Room: My FOIA Book, My Television Interview and Why Public Agencies Should Care

On June 7th, 2014, I had the good fortune of being the guest on Focus on Connecticut, which is a weekly, half-hour public affairs show on “News 12 Connecticut.” The show is hosted by Tom Appleby, a veteran news journalist in...more

7/8/2014 - FOIA Public Entities Public Meetings

Fortunately, Sometimes Life is “Unfair”: Town of Greenwich v. Greenwich Municipal Employees Association and Reversal of an...

Lawyers like to believe that arbitration decisions concerning employee discipline should be made in accordance with the law and the applicable collective bargaining agreement, not solely by an arbitrator’s personal notions of...more

7/8/2014 - Arbitration Collective Bargaining Employer Liability Issues Employment Policies Hiring & Firing Termination

Pregnancy and “Forced Sick Leave.” The Intersection of State and Federal Law, and What Is Permissible In the Connecticut Workplace

The situation that is at the epicenter of a recent controversy involving a Pier 1 employee, and a recent Connecticut federal court case, arises in the context of a pregnant employee being unable to carry out essential job...more

6/9/2014 - Employee Rights Employer Liability Issues FMLA Pregnancy Pregnancy Discrimination Sick Leave

Wage Hour Claims and Casuto v. Town of Greenwich: The Department of Labor Investigation Is Not The End of The Story

Employers who have been through an investigation by the Connecticut Department of Labor Wage & Workplace Standards Division unfortunately have intimate knowledge of the potential burdens of defending against employee wage...more

5/23/2014 - Attorney's Fees Damages DOL Employee Rights Employer Liability Issues Investigations Wage and Hour

Wager v. Moore: When May A College Have A Duty To Protect The Safety Of Its Students?

Generally speaking, from a legal standpoint, the courts have held that colleges and universities do not have a duty to safeguard the safety of their students. However, in Wager v. Moore, 2013 WL 6989512 (Conn. Super. Dec....more

5/22/2014 - Colleges Duty of Care Safety Precautions School Safety Students Universities

Warning-Your E-mail Just Became a Meeting: Mauer v. Member, Board of Education, Regional School District No. 1 and The Dangers of...

Often times, I will warn school board members against the use of e-mail to conduct board business. My primary concern is that such e-mails could be deemed to constitute an illegal un-noticed/non-public meeting, in violation...more

5/19/2014 - Board of Education Meeting Email Email Policies FOIA Public School Boards

The Aftermath: Developments From The 2014 Session of The Connecticut General Assembly Affecting The Workplace

The 2014 session of the Connecticut General Assembly has just concluded. The following is a cursory description of bills that were passed by the General Assembly that may be of interest. A more detailed summary of these...more

5/15/2014 - Employee Benefits Employee Rights Employer Liability Issues Retirement Plan Wages

The FOIA and Superintendent Evaluations: Toensing and The Various Components of The Evaluation

When evaluating superintendents of schools, school boards usually seek to synthesize the views of individual board members into a collective voice for the board. In Toensing v. Chairman, All Boards Chairs Committee, Regional...more

5/13/2014 - FOIA FOIC Performance Reviews Public Disclosure Public School Boards

Update From The 2014 Session Of The Connecticut General Assembly Regarding “Employee Privacy”/Social Media

On April 23, 2014, the Connecticut Senate approved Senate Bill No. 317, “An Act Concerning Employee Privacy.” This bill would generally prohibit employers from requiring employees (or job applicants) to provide passwords or...more

4/29/2014 - Employee Rights Employer Liability Issues Proposed Legislation Right to Privacy Social Networks

When Is Someone “At Work”? Implications For Unemployment Compensation Eligibility (And Beyond)

Connecticut’s unemployment compensation statutes disqualify individuals from eligibility for benefits for certain misconduct, such as “willful misconduct in the course of employment.” A recent court case notes that the...more

4/24/2014 - Hiring & Firing Unemployment Compensation System Unions Willful Misconduct

Latest Developments From The Connecticut General Assembly: The Education Committee Speaks

Before the deadline for committee action, the General Assembly’s Education Committee voted favorably on and advanced out of committee a plethora of bills. Among the most noteworthy were: 1) a bill that would delay the...more

4/16/2014 - Department of Education Public Schools School Safety Students

Latest Developments From The Connecticut General Assembly: The Labor and Public Employees Committee Speaks

Before the deadline for committee action, the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee voted favorably on a plethora of bills and advanced them out of committee. Among the most noteworthy were: 1) a bill...more

4/9/2014 - Employee Rights Minimum Wage Workplace Injury

The Best Defense Is A Good Offense: Employers’ Use of The FOIA For Background Checks

In representing primarily public sector bodies over most of my career, I have generally been in a position of advising clients in how to comply with Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests, and thus usually assist those...more

3/25/2014 - Background Checks Employer Liability Issues FOIA FOIC

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