The man who recorded Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico using a racial slur last month has filed a federal lawsuit against the village, alleging that officials in the western suburb orchestrated a “campaign of harassment” against him and his two elderly parents that has, so far, left them owing more than $26,000 in fines.
Michael Cozzi and his parents, Vincent and Angeline Cozzi, who are in their 80s, filed the suit Monday in U.S. District Court against Melrose Park and Serpico.
The Cozzis allege that, since December 2020, Melrose Park police officers have unfairly targeted their home for perceived municipal code violations at Serpico’s direction.
At issue, according to the suit, are the Cozzis’ lawn furniture, holiday decorations and signs for a political candidate.
“Each citation contains the same purportedly violative conduct, which is broadly stated as ‘Creating a Nuisance, Cluttering the Front Lawn,” the suit states.
“The acts constituting harassment and retaliation by the Defendants include repeatedly issuing Plaintiffs tickets, ringing their doorbell to deliver tickets on Saturdays and Sundays, leaving warning notes, improperly surveilling and patrolling Plaintiffs’ house, putting a lien on their property, and threatening Michael with physical violence.”
A representative for Serpico and Melrose Park declined to comment on the suit, as the litigation is still pending.
Last month, Michael Cozzi recorded a profane interaction between himself and Serpico, in which the mayor refers to Cozzi, who is white, with a slur against Black people.
“You look like a f------ sh--- on 15th [Avenue] because you’re doing it to bust f------ balls,” Serpico says. “That’s what you’re doing. So go f--- yourself!”
Serpico later apologized for his comments, saying of Cozzi: “This resident has repeatedly harassed me and the village board of trustees, and in this instance, my frustration got the better of me. I apologize for my comments and pledge to do better in the future.”