Colleagues retaliated against Pittsburgh officer investigating IT firm, lawsuit says
A Pittsburgh police officer claims in a federal lawsuit that police officials harassed him and retaliated against him for investigating a company that provided the department with millions of dollars worth of software upgrades that, he says, weren't used or did not work.
Officer Souroth Chatterji, 33, contends in the lawsuit filed Wednesday that former Chief Cameron McLay in 2015 ordered him to investigate the police bureau's information technology system to see if software provided by Plum-based B-Three Solutions performed up to industry standards.
Beginning in 2006, B-Three provided the bureau with numerous software upgrades, including police cruiser computer systems and systems permitting detectives to share information about homicide investigations and other high-profile crimes.
Chatterji reported the software was either never implemented, did not work or vastly exceeded the cost of similar systems, according to the lawsuit.
As a result, McLay filed complaints with the FBI and Pittsburgh Office of Municipal Investigations, according to the suit.
B-Three president Michael Walton said the company is bound by a nondisclosure agreement with the city, but he called the allegations “baseless and groundless.”
“B-Three is a company that prides itself in professionalism and integrity in all aspects of business with its customers, including the city of Pittsburgh,” he said in an email. “B-Three develops only the highest quality software for its customers and many times is called upon to address poorly-designed software developed by other companies.
“We will be requesting our litigation counsel to not only investigate this situation, but, if he deems it appropriate, we will authorize him to initiate whatever actions may be available to B-Three for any false and malicious statements made against the company and its reputation.”
McLay could not be reached for comment. Police Chief Scott Schubert, who replaced McLay when he stepped down in November 2016, declined comment.
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said the situation resulted in “numerous investigations.” He said the FBI reviewed files related to B-Three and found no criminal wrongdoing. The FBI declined comment.
“One is still ongoing. We're looking at that,” Hissrich said. “A lot of that came before my time here. I came into that and saw there was a problem, and others had seen there was a problem and I know there had been refinements throughout the city to address those problems.”
Hissrich started in January 2016.
“(Chatterji) investigated the information technology systems as he was ordered to do and then in good faith he reported what he found,” Chatterji's attorney Alec B. Wright said. “He didn't do anything wrong. He doesn't deserve to suffer harassment.”
The lawsuit alleges Linda Rosato-Barone, an assistant police chief and deputy director of Public Safety, filed a “baseless” complaint against Chatterji with the Office of Municipal Investigations because of his investigation into B-Three. Chatterji's lawsuit says Rosato-Barone filed the complaint because of “her role or relationship with” B-Three Solutions, but it does not specify a connection to the company.
Rosato-Barone declined comment.
Chatterji claims Rosato-Barone made numerous “direct and indirect threats” and refused to promote him to sergeant, even though he scored highest of all officers taking a sergeant's exam.
Chatterji, who is of Indian descent, alleges other officers under Rosato-Barone's command harassed him and called him racial epithets, including “muhammed” and “haji,” and referred to him as “Chatter Teeth,” playing off his last name.
“The city clearly supports a diverse police bureau and in the last four years has made great strides in making the bureau more reflective of the city as whole,” said Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto. “It is also committed to providing police with the technology they need to make crime-fighting as effective as possible.”
Wright said his client is faced with a career choice.
“It is my view that his career with the city of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is over,” he said. “His career was effectively terminated by Chief (Rosato-Barone). He has to make a choice whether he wants to persist in this career.”
Chatterji is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and payment for attorney's fees.