STATEN ISLAND — The former chief clerk of the borough’s court system who secretly recorded a top judge for years claims a union rep slandered him by setting up a giant inflatable rat with his name on it outside a courthouse, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
Michael Pulizotto filed the suit against Dennis Quirk, the head of the state’s Court Officers Union, after Quirk placed the rodent in front of Staten Island Supreme Court last month and called him a “low-life rat" because of secret recordings Pulizotto taped of Quirk, Staten Island administrative Judge Judith McMahon and others.
"What happened to him in Staten Island last month, especially on the day of the rat, is extreme and outrageous," said Pulizotto's lawyer, Richard Luthmann.
"Dennis Quirk is a bully. This case was brought to teach Dennis Quirk a lesson and to protect Michael and his interest."
The recordings Pulizotto took resulted in McMahon, who is the wife of District Attorney Michael McMahon, being reassigned to Manhattan and Judge Stephen Rooney stepping down from an administrative role.
"The complaint, any cause of actions asserted and facts are as frivolous and ridiculous as I’ve ever seen," said Quirk's lawyer, Bruce Baron. "We expect this case to be dismissed and Dennis W. Quirk looks forward to his day in court."
Quirk also claims Pulizotto potentially violated attorney-client privilege established between them years ago by recording him, but Luthmann says it never existed.
The filing of the suit was first reported by Right Bites TV.
The drama started in 2015, when Pulizotto landed his "dream job" as chief clerk of the borough's court system, the suit says. However, he was chewed out soon after by Judge McMahon when he brought an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim "off-island" to the Office of Court Administration instead of letting them handle it in-house, according to the suit, which did not include details about the claim.
Fearing McMahon, who was administrator of both the criminal and civil sections of the court, would use her position to "sweep wrongdoing under the rug," Pulizotto recorded her from July 2015 through September, Luthmann said.
After her husband was elected DA, Judge McMahon stepped down from overseeing the criminal section to avoid any conflict of interest, with Rooney taking over. However, the recordings show McMahon going over Rooney's head and continuing to exert influence over the court, according to the suit.
"There’s a whole bunch of irregularity that McMahon herself caused," said Luthmann, a controversial local lawyer who's also under investigation for creating bogus Facebook pages for borough politicians and candidates.
The recording caught McMahon making sure cases didn't get assigned to "defense oriented" judges, ordering warrant applications to be pulled and speaking to the DA on speakerphone about grand jury matters, according to the suit.
She also "micromanaged" the decision about whether the court should release grand jury testimony from the Eric Garner case and handled the question of whether the video of his death should be allowed in the criminal case against the man who shot the video, the suit adds.
"Justice McMahon is not a party to this suit, but the claims in it about her are obviously absurd," her lawyer, John Connors, said in a statement.
"The truth is clear: Justice McMahon has been a distinguished jurist for more than a decade and she continues to serve the people of New York with distinction."
The state is investigating the claims from Pulizotto's tapes, and McMahon was abruptly reassigned to a Manhattan courthouse, with Rooney stepping down from his post and returning to work as a sitting judge, the New York Times reported.
Pulizotto has also left his position and has been working in a "rubber room" in Manhattan since, Luthmann said.
"Michael is extremely upset," his attorney said. "He had a dream job at the courthouse."
While not a cause of action in the suit, it also alleges that McMahon and Quirk discriminated against Pulizotto, who is openly gay, because of his sexuality.
McMahon mocked Pulizotto using "an exaggerated, effeminate voice and stereotypical gay hand gestures," while Quirk made lewd jokes about him having sex in the office with other workers, the suit claims.
A different lawyer is exploring a labor rights suit against them over the comments, Luthmann added.