Riverhead Police dispatcher Melissa Elco, center, with police officers Eric Cohen and Kerri Davis, who teamed up to save the life of a toddler in February 2013. File photo: Peter Blasl

A Riverhead Police dispatcher has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Town of Riverhead, the police department, the police chief a police officer and other town officials, alleging intimidation, retaliation, discrimination, sexual harassment and the creation of a hostile work environment.

Melissa Breitenbach Elco, a 15-year public safety dispatcher in the Riverhead Police Department, brought the action in State Supreme Court in Suffolk.

In a summons with notice filed with the court Oct. 5, Elco alleges a “pervasive pattern of intimidation, retaliation and discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law and related laws…”

The summons names Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, who serves as police commissioner, Chief David Hegermiller, Police Officer Richard Freeborn, the Riverhead Police Department and the Town of Riverhead.

“This matter stems from the actions of Freeborn and other members of the RPD who have harassed the plaintiff by threatening comments, stalking, and inappropriate and malicious threats,” the summons says.

Elco and Freeborn previously had a personal relationship and have a child together.

“Defendants have retaliated against plaintiff … by ostracizing her and have discriminated against her and sought to intimidate her, which has negatively affected her health, job performance, position and status at the RPD and caused her to suffer severe and unwarranted emotional distress which has detrimentally affected plaintiff’s health and wellbeing,” the summons says.

The Riverhead Town Board on Tuesday authorized the retention of the Messina Perillo Hill law firm of Sayville, to defend the action.

Town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz said yesterday the commencement of the suit by a summons with notice, without an accompanying complaint, leaves the town in the dark about the plaintiff’s specific allegations.

“At this point, it’s a generic statement of hostile work environment without any statement of facts, dates, whether complaints were made to anybody,” Kozakiewicz said.

Elco’s attorney is Ronald Hariri of Aquebogue. He said in a statement Tuesday night he could not comment on the specifics of the case.

“No officer or official is above the law,” he added, noting that his client is “part of a decorated police family that bleeds blue.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.