A superior court judge ruled in favor of the Town of Orange Health Department’s decision to withold information relating to the temporary closure of Oregano Joe’s as it relates to a civil suit against the restaurant.
“I have already filed an appeal with the Connecticut Supreme Court,” said Attorney Jose Rojas. The Hartford-based attorney represents West Haven resident Kamran Niazi who claims he became violently ill with salmonella poisoning after eating at the pizzeria.
“I just don’t think the health department’s use of the statutes in this case is justified,” Rojas said. “This is not in the service of the public.”
Laws prohibit the release of personal health information as it relates to studies in morbidity and mortality. The Orange Health Department has contended that includes releasing information considered part of an investigation.
Connecticut Epidemiologist through the Connecticut Department of Health released a report in November that noted a potential eight cases of salmonella traced to a single food establishment. The report does not mention the business name, town or even county but shows a timeline that aligns with the closure and investigation reports for Oregano Joe’s.
In that report, three of the eight probable cases were hospitalized. Six cases were confirmed and two were considered probable, all for salmonella and all reportedly after eating products containing chicken at the same food service establishment. Niazi reportedly ate a pizza with chicken on it from the restaurant.
The report specifies that “One food worker admitted to gastrointestinal symptoms” during their investigation. The investigation would reveal three workers with positive lab results for salmonella.
While the report never mentions Oregano Joe’s or any other establishment by name, the May 30 voluntary closing with a reopening on May 31 as well as the forced closure on June 20 and reopening on July 28 all match the events affecting the Orange business.
At the time of reopening, Orange Sanitarian Brian Slugowski said Oregano Joe’s was in compliance with all regulations and cleaning protocols following the closure.
Oregano Joe’s owner Joe DeVellis has avoided media contact and never stated that it was salmonella that closed his doors. After the forced closure, a sign was posted under the health department notice claiming mechanical failure was responsible for the shutdown.
Rojas hopes the Supreme Court will determine the town’s denial to provide information is not in keeping with the public safety and authorize information regarding the shutdown to be released, subsequently ending speculation. Rojas, The Orange Times and NBC Connecticut have all filed complaints with the Freedom of Information Commission regarding the Health Department’s decision to not release any information about the closure.