Connecticut Parks Supervisor Suspended Over Swastika Complaint

A town parks supervisor accused of ordering an employee to paint a swastika on another worker's desk has been put on paid administrative leave.

First Selectman Jim Lash said Thursday he made the decision to place Craig Whitcomb on leave while the incident is investigated.

"The facts found so far indicated that was the appropriate next step," Lash said.

Whitcomb had been accused of harassing Otto Lauersdorf about his German heritage and Lauersdorf's union had filed a grievance on June 7.

Since then, Lauersdorf has filed formal complaints against the town with the state's Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. In the two-page affidavit filed with the complaint, Lauersdorf said that he has been the victim of a hostile work environment for the past 16 months and had been called a Nazi.

Lauersdorf said that earlier this year he returned to a shed where he works at Grass Island to find a colorful 2-foot by 2-foot swastika painted on his desk.

Whitcomb, operations manager for the marine and facilities division of the parks department, told the Greenwich Time he can't comment.

Gary Phelan, who represents Lauersdorf, said his client was traumatized by the swastika incident.

"This is, to a person of German descent, much like a noose that is left on the desk of an African-American employee," Phelan said.

Lauersdorf's father was killed by a Nazi during World War II, a fact known by Whitcomb, according to the complaint filed with the CHRO.

Despite accusing Whitcomb of creating a hostile work environment, the complaint names e town, not Lauersdorf's supervisor, as a defendant. Phelan said state and federal employment discrimination statutes do not have a provision for bringing complaints against individuals, which would have to be done as a legal action.