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WAITRESS' SUIT AGAINST OFFICER COSTS FALLS $50,000

An off-duty police officer's 1997 argument with a waitress over 90 cents cost the city $50,000 this week.

The City Council approved an out-of-court settlement in that amount for Janine Reinard of 85th Street and her husband, Rick, who had sued the city for false arrest.

The suit originally sought $500,000 from Officer Michael Scozzafava and an undisclosed amount from the city.

The Reinards' attorney, Anthony D. Parone, said the $50,000 payment settles the suit against Scozzafava as well. He said the city would have had to pay any damages assessed to Scozzafava if the case had gone to trial.

Scozzafava, a police officer since 1991, and acting Corporation Counsel Timothy G. Bax did not return calls seeking their comment on the suit.

Police Chief Ernest C. Palmer said he was aware of the matter but referred all comment to Bax.

Janine Reinard, then 34, was arrested June 25, 1997, and charged with second-degree harassment while on the job at Mom's Coffee Shop in the Mil-Pine Plaza.

According to Parone, Scozzafava, who was off-duty, entered the establishment in the late afternoon with a woman, and both ordered cups of coffee.

Reinard brought them a pot of coffee, which Parone said was common practice if more than one cup was ordered. However, Scozzafava objected, Parone said, and complained to the manager that he was being overcharged.

Reinard, who is still working at Mom's, said the difference in price was 90 cents.

"We always bring a pot to the booth if they're going to eat. If they have a meal, they pay for a bottomless cup. They were looking at the menu, so I thought they were going to eat," she said.

Parone said that when Reinard waited on the officer, he renewed his complaints.

"My boss had already changed the price," Reinard recalled. "(Scozzafava) was right in my face, yelling and screaming. I said somebody should call the police. That's when he really lost it. He said, 'I am the police.' "

The attorney said Reinard picked up the bill, but Scozzafava grabbed at it, and it tore in two.

Reinard said Scozzafava called Police Headquarters, and a patrol car arrived. She was taken to headquarters and booked.

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