Following Justice Richard Licht’s decision to overturn the jury’s ruling in the case of Eileen Fuoco versus Mayor Polisena, both parties provided their thoughts on the new outcome.
“I always had faith in the judicial system; I knew the jury’s decision was dead wrong. I did nothing wrong. I’m a nurse, I’m not an attorney, but I know how to read, I know how to comprehend, I know how to write,” said Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena. “When I looked at the jury’s decision, I thought the decision was way off. I was expressing my First Amendment right plus the stuff I was saying was the truth. I wasn’t making it up.”
Polisena said he was very pleased with the judge’s decision and that he’s going to turn the page and move on.
“I’ll continue to represent the citizens like I always have. I’ll always fight for the citizens if anyone in this town is trying to take advantage of them,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve been for 64 years and I’ll probably be that way, hopefully if I live that long, for another 20 years.”
Polisena said he believes that the judicial system works both in the state and in the country, based on rules of law. He felt that the jury’s decision did not use the rule of law.
“I didn’t break any laws, I didn’t do anything wrong, and I said that from day one,” said the mayor. “She was an elected official. I approached her at a public meeting during a public debate. If this decision ever stuck, it would have reverberating effects not only on other elected officials but the media.”
Polisena added that, during the October 2013 altercation, he didn’t make up any claims. He also felt that the settlement amount awarded by the jury was far too arbitrary.
Since the jury’s decision in June, Fuoco has been strident in her criticisms of the mayor. He said he has nothing to add about those comments.
“That’s her personality, I don’t have anything nasty to say. I feel that I was doing my job as mayor. I was concerned about some of the things that were going on in that district and some of the things that were happening. I have every right in my First Amendment right, as well as being the mayor in public right to talk at that meeting,” he said. “It’s her First Amendment right to speak against me, like the nasty things she said about me. That’s her First Amendment right.”
Polisena reiterated that his first concern is the town. He highlighted a $28 million cumulative surplus, three years without a tax increase, business development in town, new firefighting apparatus and a new sports complex as some of the successes the town has had since he took office. Should Fuoco decide to appeal to a higher court, Polisena said he is ready to fight for his rights to the Supreme Court.
“This isn’t going to stop me from doing my job or from speaking out. When you’re an elected official, you have to have thicker skin,” said Polisena. “I did absolutely nothing wrong at that Council meeting, it was nonsense.”
To say that Eileen Fuoco was disappointed with Justice Licht’s decision would be an understatement.
“Every single thing, or 99 percent of the things that Justice Richard Licht put in that letter, is a lie,” said Fuoco. “I am appealing the judge’s decision. I’m not happy with his decision at all.”
Fuoco said that her decision to appeal isn’t because of money, but because she doesn’t want Polisena “to get away with what he did.”
“My biggest thing with Polisena is the indemnification. That is so wrong, because I’m not suing the town,” said Fuoco. “I wasn’t suing the town, I was suing Polisena personally.”
Fuoco was referring to a special meeting held in January 2015, where the Johnston Town Council voted to indemnify any costs associated with the case. She felt that the council’s decision to indemnify Mayor Polisena 15 months after the case was filed was unfair both to her and to the residents of the town.
Fuoco, who is now traveling to Florida, said she was going to go through Justice Licht’s ruling with a fine tooth comb and “nit pick” the discrepancies that she finds.
“I’m aggravated because of Richard Licht’s decision,” said Fuoco, who took issue with the judge’s ruling that the jurors were misinformed. “June 7, when the verdict came down, I won the case.”
Fuoco said she’s felt “tortured” and “crucified” during the council meeting and throughout the court case. Because of how she felt, and her belief that her case has merit, Fuoco said it’s not the end of the road for her case.
“I’m not putting my tail between my legs, I’m not backing off, I’m going to move forward,” said Fuoco. “I’m going to do what I have to do.”