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UPDATED: Banned Animal Shelter Workers Win Lawsuit Against Hempstead Town

Offer of judgment accepted after two years of litigation.

A protest outside of the shelter. Credit: Tara Conry
A protest outside of the shelter. Credit: Tara Conry
After two years of ongoing litigation, the three banned volunteer animal rescue workers from Hempstead Town Animal Shelter have won their case against the town.

It was announced Tuesday that the plaintiffs -- Diane Madden of East Meadow, Lucille DeFina of Merrick and Frances Lucivero‐Pelletier of Levittown -- had accepted an offer of judgment that their lawyer, Steven Morelli, referred to as a "total victory against the Town of Hempstead, Town Supervisor Kate Murray and various town officials."

Court documents state that the settlement totalled $150,000, including attorney's fees. A breakdown of the offer is as follows:
  • $36,456 to Madden
  • $36,460 to DeFina
  • $8,750 to Lucivero‐Pelletier
  • $68,334 to Morelli in attorney's fees
The trio filed a lawsuit against the town in U.S District Court in December 2010, claiming that they were penalized by the town for speaking out about alleged abuse at the shelter. The lawsuit also alleges that lies have been spread about the three women by Hempstead officials. According to a release from Morelli:

        While a trial of this action would have surely publicized the inappropriate going on at the Hempstead Animal Shelter, given the public report of the comptroller and the total capitulation of the defendants, the plaintiffs have decided to accept the offer of judgment, securing their win and the ability to focus on the animals.

Morelli's reference to the comptroller's report comes after a November 2012 audit of the animal shelter by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, in which high operational costs, a mismanagement of overtime expenses and poor record-keeping were among problems found.

Despite the victory in court, Madden says their work is just beginning.

"The absolute refusal on the part of Hempstead officials to allow public oversight leaves us no choice but to continue our efforts to be the voice from the animals," she said.

Mike Deery, Communications Director for the Town of Hempstead, released the following statement Tuesday afternoon in regards to the settlement:

"The Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter offers top-notch care for cats and dogs at its Wantagh facility. The township is satisfied that the settlement of a legal case involving the shelter indicates no wrongdoing on the part of the plaintiffs or the town. Indeed, reviews of the shelter have found no mistreatment or neglect of animals. On the contrary, the Humane Society of the United States recently honored shelter officials for the superlative care they provided to animals who fell victim to Hurricane Sandy.

"The town looks forward to continuing to provide excellent care for animals at its municipal shelter."

This story was updated at 3:05 p.m. on Jan. 8 with a statement from the Town of Hempstead.

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