City approves settlement for years-long lawsuit

by Laura Bednar

May 10 city council meeting

The city of Independence has agreed on a settlement in the case of Mazzola v. Togliatti et al, filed in 2019. Former Independence Police Lt. Leonard Mazzola filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against the city of Independence, former mayor and current councilman Anthony Togliatti, former Independence Police Chief Michael Kilbane and city Law Director Greg O’Brien.

According to, “Plaintiff Mazzola alleges that defendants violated his First Amendment rights when they retaliated against him because defendants believed plaintiff had given a reporter information about the Independence mayor’s police traffic ticket quota. Mazzola claims that defendants investigated him and that he was eventually ‘forced to retire.’”

In the settlement, the city agreed to pay Mazzola $973,940. Councilman Tom Narduzzi said the lawsuit in its entirety cost the city close to $1.7 million. The settlement money came from the city’s rainy day fund, while the legal service fees while the case was ongoing came from the city’s self-insurance fund, according to Finance Director Vern Blaze.

In other news, residents Larry Charmley and Nina Smolinski were recognized for saving their neighbor’s life during a house fire. Smolinski said she and Charmley were at an outdoor birthday party when they saw plumes of smoke and realized their neighbor’s house was on fire.

After seeing the neighbor’s car in the drive, they banged on the door of the house but got no response. Smolinski said they then entered the home through the attached garage. The neighbor had been sleeping and wore a CPAP machine, which prevented him from hearing what was happening.

After entering the home, Smolinski and Charmley saw the neighbor coming down the stairs, disoriented. Smolinski took the neighbor’s dog out the front door and Charmley helped the neighbor to exit the home.

“It was never a question, we just did it,” Smolinski said.

Fire Chief Steve Rega said the two residents’ act of courage “exemplifies neighbor helping neighbor.” ∞