NIAGARA FALLS – Former Niagara Falls police officer Mark L. Feldhousen filed his second discrimination lawsuit of the year against the city earlier this month.
Feldhousen, 61, asserts in his newest State Supreme Court filing that his ouster from the Police Department in 2011 was driven in part by discrimination over the after-effects of brain surgery he underwent in 2000.
In April, Feldhousen filed suit against the city, charging the Police Department with age discrimination.
Neither lawsuit mentioned Feldhousen’s conviction by a Niagara County Court jury May 3, 2011, on a third-degree assault charge stemming from a fight with his then-girlfriend. He was sentenced to three years’ probation.
Feldhousen, who lives in Cambria, filed retirement papers May 20, 2011, between the verdict and the sentencing. By doing so, he protected his pension and his city-paid lifetime health insurance.
The lawsuits say Feldhousen had filed three discrimination complaints with the city’s equal employment office in October 2010, the month before his fight with the woman.
Besides the surgery for a meningioma, or brain tumor, in 2000 at the Cleveland Clinic, Feldhousen, who joined the police force in 1971, took a medical leave in 2003.
The new lawsuit says that was brought on by a brain bleed which led to weakness in Feldhousen’s left arm and leg, as well as language, mental, emotional and cognitive deficits. The court papers say Feldhousen made a full recovery from those problems.
Feldhousen returned to patrol duty, but in September 2009, he was transferred from the Traffic Division to work as a jailer in the city lockup.
He was transferred again in April 2010, to an administrative post in which “he was ordered not to perform any official police functions.”
On Sept. 9, 2010, he was ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination, the lawsuit says. On Oct. 6, 2010, the day after he filed his first age discrimination complaint, he was placed on administrative leave.
Like the first suit over age discrimination, Feldhousen’s new filing demands back pay and benefits.
His attorney, Jon R. Wilson of Lockport, said Feldhousen’s disability discrimination case had to wait until he received a “right to sue” letter from the U.S. Justice Department, a letter issued after Justice decided not to prosecute the matter itself. A similar letter came in January in the age discrimination case.
The first lawsuit has been transferred from State Supreme Court to U.S. District Court in Buffalo, said Joseph S. Brown of the Hodgson Russ law firm, who is representing the city.
He said it’s likely the new case will be shifted to federal court, too.
Brown said the first case is in the early discovery stage, after a mandatory mediation session last month produced no settlement. He declined to discuss the merits of the cases, citing a city policy on open litigation.