Former Employee Sues Westport Weston Health District Director

For more than 16 months, the Westport Weston Health District has been at the center of the COVID fight.

Now, executive director Mark Cooper is in the hot seat.

Last month, Louis D’Onofrio Jr. resigned as WWHD director of clinical care. This month, he sued his former boss.

The suit, filed in District Court, charges Cooper with retaliation against D’Onofrio, after he tried to address alleged health and safety hazards in the Health District office.

D’Onofrio made multiple complaints about rodent droppings, which he says Cooper disregarded.

Louis D’Onofrio Jr.

D’Onofrio says he then complained to the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, which inspected the premises in June 2019. The suit says that CIRMA found that safety data sheets had not been updated in over a decade, and that unlabeled bottles of chemicals where improperly stored where they could harm staff or visitors.

D’Onofrio says that Cooper did not review and resolve the concerns. Rodent droppings continued. D’Onofrio says that rodents also chewed through raincoats and jackets worn by employees.

This past April, D’Onofrio said he spoke with the Westport Police Department about concerns of possible financial mismanagement. He says approximately $73,000 was part of “unclassified” medical services.

After D’Onofrio spoke with the WWHD board chair about his financial and safety concerns, he alleges that Cooper “initiated an investigation into a fictitious vaccine matter.”

D’Onofrio also says that Cooper threatened to eliminate his position, because the district had lost approximately $70,000.

In May, D’Onofrio charges, Cooper took away a bonus, with “no valid cause.”

D’Onofrio submitted his resignation on June 16, “because of the intolerable condition of being required to continue to work in a setting that was hazardous to health and safety of himself, co-workers, and members of the public.”

Westport Weston Health District director Mark Cooper (right) addresses the media on March 11, 2020, when the pandemic first hit Westport. First Selectman Jim Marpe is at left. Mask wearing was not yet mandatory.

D’Onofrio charges infringement of his free speech rights, and unlawful employment practices. He seeks a jury trial, and asks for compensatory and punitive damages.

“I wish things had never gotten this far,” D’Onofrio told “06880.” “I love my career helping people. Our staff did everything to combat the pandemic. They should not be surrounded by such horrible conditions. I just wanted him to clean the office.”

Asked to respond, Cooper told “06880”:

I am certainly aware of the report since I approved the request to have CIRMA, the WWHD’s insurance carrier, conduct the voluntary assessment. The request to have CIRMA conduct the assessment was made to help staff prepare for our outpatient clinic license application to the State, as well as to identify any potential risks so they could be addressed.

The inspection was conducted over 2 years ago with the report noting that: “It is with the utmost appreciation to the Westport Weston Health District staff for time dedicated to assisting in this project. The coordination of on-site visit went extremely well…

The inspection resulted in several recommendations to address. All of CIRMA’s recommendations were corrected and clearly did not impede approval and issuance of WWHD’s clinic license.

Although not included in the lawsuit, D’Onofrio also told “06880” that Cooper refused to wear a mask in the office, and left the state for long weekends during the pandemic but did not quarantine upon his return.

Cooper did not reply to emails and text messages asking for responses to those allegations.



11 responses to “Former Employee Sues Westport Weston Health District Director

  1. Susan Iseman

    Ugh. If the WWHD had a rodent problem, you would assume other employees would have complained also….

  2. Breno Donatti

    Mark Cooper has been fantastic to the community and although I have only had very few interactions with him, mostly via phone to address health code questions, he has always been responsive, courteous, and extremely attentive to our inquiries. I think it seems excessive to sue someone for rodents in the office… the office of the WWHD is in the middle of the forest… I bet most of the households in that area go through the same
    problems with pests. Obviously I don’t know what else went on, but it seems frivolous from the outside looking in.

  3. John F. Suggs

    Wow. This sounds pretty much like a typical case of a disgruntled former employee. What isn’t even mentioned here is that D’Onofrio is now running for 2nd Selectman as TJ Elgin’s running mate. He is mentioned prominently on their campaign website. VoteWestport.Com Bizarre.

  4. I was sad to hear the astute sanitarian Antonia Menta has also left the health dept – Inquiring minds might want to know why

  5. For starters, Louis and I never planned this. I had petitioned to run alone for selectman. He expressed a lot of issues going on and if I could help once elected. I told him I can help sooner and decided to reduce the paperwork for the selectman race, the clerk and state elections officials can attest. As for Cooper, he was pushing things away from the public for years,

    This is just the sewage issue, below is the petition on why we want him removed and the youtube video in the link documents more

    I am working with many businesses trying to work in the town and the delay is too much for most to afford while some get special privileges. If you would like to have meeting with these business owners and myself I’d love to share.

    I grew up in this town from kings highway through staples 2008, im not a career politician. I just want to see whats right for the town I grew up in. 26ish years in this town and I’ve only ever tried to help it.

  6. Another frivolous lawsuit of the kind that makes this community “West Tort.” In the rest of America when you see mouse droppings, you call the exterminator. Here, you call the lawyer!

    • Is two years standard length of time to wait for your boss to hire an exterminator? Just asking.

      • Tammy – Only an extremely lethargic employee would wait around for two years to take care of some mice in the office if they were causing him pain and suffering valued at $750K.

        Anyone in the private sector would take the initiative to solve this little problem, when the boss was busy with something perhaps a tad more important — like being in charge of public health during Covid, f’rinstance.

        It doesn’t even require an exterminator; just a trip to Westport Hardware to buy some rodenticide and materials to patch up the holes where mice are entering.

        And, who’s responsible for the mice in the office to start with. In my experience, it’s slobs who leave a mess in the kitchen and store food in their desks — just as likely the employees’ fault as the bosses’.

  7. Frivolous is an understatement. Mark Cooper has been incredible and proactive during the pandemic from the start and performed well under pressure. There is a stand procedure to follow in internal matters such as this. And yes the budget does reflect such matter.