PEQUOT GAMING ENTERPRISE
John Strafaci, Esquire, New London, Connecticut
Plaintiff – Appellant
R. Godley, Esquire, Norwich, Connecticut
Defendant – Appellee
The issue on appeal is whether the lower court erred in holding that
the Appellant’s Board of Review hearing complied with procedural due
The Appellant, Sherri Olderman, was employed as a bartender by the
Appellee, Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise (the “Gaming Enterprise”),
until April 25, 1998, when she was discharged.
Her misconduct consisted mainly of rude, obscene, indecent, threatening
words and actions of a sexual nature toward co-workers at the Foxwoods High
Stakes Bingo and Casino.
On July 1, 1998, a Board of Review hearing was conducted.
It was the recommendation of the Board
that the termination be upheld. On
August 4, 1998, the President/CEO of the Gaming Enterprise adopted the Board’s
recommendation. The Appellant
then sought redress in the Tribal Court.
Employment Appeal Ordinance, VIII M.P.T.L. chap. 1.
In a comprehensive opinion, the lower court, O’Connell, J., reviewed
each of the Appellant’s claims of deprivations of due process rights and
rejected them. The court found
that there were reasonable and rational reasons for the discharge.
This appeal followed.
At the outset , it should be noted that the Appellant freely admitted
most of the crucial allegations against her . She contends, however, that she
was merely “joking”; that such conduct was commonplace in the work
environment; and that she was being singled out for discipline because “she’s
gay”. R.at 264-65. See also R. at 28, 201, 237, 243, 247, 257,
264. The Board of Review, the
President/CEO and the court below carefully considered those factual
contentions and found them to be without merit.
Accordingly, those defenses cannot be retried on appeal.
See, e.g., Thompson v. Mashantucket Pequot Gaming
Enterprise, 1 MPR 22, 25 (1996); LeCara v. Mashantucket Pequot Gaming
Enterprise, 1MPR 14 (1996); Ruffo v. Mashantucket Pequot Gaming
Enterprise 1 MPR 3, 6 (1996).
The Appellant further contends that the admission into evidence at the
Board of Review hearing of witnesses’ statements with redacted names was
erroneous and prejudicial. Her claim is without merit.
While some of the names on witnesses’ statements were blocked out,
these witnesses’ statements constituted merely cumulative and corroborating
evidence. The key witnesses
against the Appellant were either revealed or were known to the Appellant.
The Appellant also argues that her cross-examination of Patricia D’Andria
was impermissibly limited at her Board of Review hearing .
The record does not support Appellant’s claim.
Ms. D’Andria was called as a witness at the request of a member of
the Board of Review to answer a specific question.
R. at 175. Counsel for the
Appellant cross-examined Ms. D’Andria on her answer to that question.
R. at 177. When counsel
attempted to expand the testimony beyond the scope of the purpose of her
direct testimony, the Board curtailed counsel’s cross-examination.
Under those circumstances, there was no abuse of discretion by the
Board in refusing to allow counsel for the Appellant to proceed with further
questions on cross-examination. See
e.g., Grossi v. Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, 1 MPR 55,
57 (1998). If
Appellant’s counsel deemed Ms. D’Andria’s
additional testimony to be relevant to the defense, he could have
called Ms. D’Andria for direct testimony as a witness for the Appellant.
Having failed to do so, he cannot now claim prejudice on this appeal.
Finally, Appellant argues that she was not given adequate time to
present her case before the Board of Review.
The circumstances surrounding that claim were set forth as follows by
the lower court:
presented its case on pages 13 through 18 of the transcript.
Thereafter, the plaintiff cross-examined management’s
and presented her own case on pages 18 through 118 of the transcript.
(R.,p.165-265). Shortly before the close of the hearing, the plaintiff’s
attorney told the Board ‘we still have additional material but certainly I’d
prefer if the Board has specific questions, because I understand the hour is
getting late. We would certainly
prefer to address specific questions then.’
(R.,p.256). The Board
members, adopting the procedure suggested by the plaintiff’s attorney, asked
the plaintiff several specific questions and then declared that they had no
more questions and had enough information to reach a decision. (R.,p.256-258).
The plaintiff’s attorney then suggested that the Board reconvene at
some other time because ‘it’s now five after five, I know I have an
appointment in New London where I’m due back there in about forty-five
minutes. I know I have more than
what’s going to be another fifteen or twenty minutes.’ (R.,p.258).
After a recess, the Board stated that it had sufficient information and
desired to hear closing arguments. (R,.p.260).
The Gaming Enterprise and the plaintiff then presented closing
The names of some of the Appellant’s co-workers were redacted in their
written statements because they feared retaliation by the Appellant.
 As noted by the lower court, while the Appellant makes generalized statements of prejudice, no specific evidence is identified that would support the claim of prejudice. Memorandum of Decision at 12. See, e.g., State v. Jones, 167 Conn.228, 232-33, 355A.2d 95 (1974) (appellant has burden of proof to demonstrate prejudice when trier limits scope of cross-examination).
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