Sgt. Michael Kurland stands in front of The American Flag as he takes an oath before he takes the stand in a hearing to determine his fate as a Brookline police officer. Kurland, previously the Interim Police Chief before the hiring of Chief William Quigley, has been on paid leave after being charged with ten separate charges of misconduct.
Kurland lawsuit claims Brookline chief was on ‘a targeted and deliberate mission’ to have him fired
NASHUA – From his first day on the job, Brookline Police Chief William Quigley III was on “a targeted and deliberate mission” to fire Sgt. Michael Kurland, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court.
Kurland is suing the Board of Selectmen to get his job back, claiming the board violated his due process rights to a fair hearing before firing him April 4.
However, the lawsuit was news to selectmen.
“I haven’t seen it,” selectmen’s Chairman Tad Putney said Wednesday afternoon, adding, “I have no comment.”
Longtime Selectman Clarence Farwell had a similar response, offering a two-word, “no comment.”
Putney, Farwell, and Selectman Jack Flanagan, who is also a Republican state representative, voted a month ago to uphold chief Quigley’s recommendation to fire Kurland.
Newly elected Selectmen Karl Dowling and Darrell Philpot opposed the termination.
Kurland’s appeal alleges that Quigley’s investigation was “wrought with numerous procedural infractions and policy violations” including failure to follow procedures outlined in the town’s Police Department internal affairs policy.
It also maintains Quigley was unable to conduct an unbiased investigation, given his history with Kurland, including an incident years back between Kurland and a member of Quigley’s immediate family.
“These interactions led to Quigley’s immediate family filing a complaint against the Petitioner that was determined to be unfounded,” the suit asserts.
Quigley accused Kurland of violating a number of Police Department conduct and discipline rules, upheld last month by a 3-2 vote of the Board of Selectmen.
Kurland’s suit argues that the problems between the chief and the sergeant were the result of miscommunication and bias.
During his 12 years on the town’s police force, Kurland “consistently received high marks in his performance evaluations” and “prior to the current matter, was never disciplined or the subject of an internal affairs investigation,” the suit maintains.
The suit argues Quigley should have turned the case over the attorney general’s office, the state police, another police department or “any other unbiased individual or entity.”
It also asserts that because Kurland’s due process rights were violated, he should be allowed a
new hearing, his firing should be reversed, and he should be reinstated with full back pay, retroactive to April 4.
Kurland, who served as acting chief after the board fired Chief Thomas Goulden on April 29, 2010, was a candidate for the chief’s job.
Quigley placed him on paid leave Dec. 14, about six weeks after he started his new job as chief.
At his March 17 disciplinary hearing, held publicly at his request, Kurland said that after Quigley arrived, he told the new chief that he was looking forward to “steering the ship together.”
But Quigley was not responsive, and instead of talking with the sergeant, he kept his distance, communicating by memo, Kurland said.
Kurland said his first inkling about the chief’s investigation came in a memo notifying him he had overspent his uniform account.
Quigley recommended Kurland’s firing based on five situations he said violated police discipline and conduct codes: the overdrawn uniform account that included a receipt for a
pair of women’s UGG slippers, although Kurland had reimbursed the town for the slippers; communication with a prospective new hire, whom the chief accused Kurland of giving a start date to before he had concluded a background check; questions about a mutual aid agreement with the Lyndeborough Police Department; and allegations that he pressured local businessman Dave Janik of “Two Daves Auto” to donate to the DARE program and cut the price for mounting tires on police cruisers.
Altogether, Quigley issued five internal affairs reports citing Kurland for 26 violations, according to the appeal.
Attorneys for Kurland said that during the disciplinary hearing, Quigley had not informed the sergeant he was conducting an internal investigation or that Kurland’s job was on the line.
They also noted then that Quigley conducted most of his interviews by phone and altogether spent about eight hours on the internal investigation.
The suit cites conversations Quigley had with police officers in Weare, where Quigley previously served as deputy chief.
“Prior to Quigley’s appointment as Chief of Police, Quigley made it known to several other police officers that he did not like the Petitioner (Kurland) personally or professionally and had no intention of working with the Petitioner. Quigley expressed his dislike for the Petitioner to Officer Aaron Deboisbriand and Lt. James Carney and further indicated that if he were ever to become Chief of Police in Brookline, he would be looking to make some personnel changes, specifically with regard to the Petitioner.”
This is the second time in roughly a year that the Board of Selectmen has been sued by a fired police officer.
Last year, the town spent $87,026.70 to settle a suit brought by Police Chief Thomas Goulden following his termination on April 29, 2010.
Altogether, the suit cost the town $114,526, but the town’s insurance paid for $27,500, according to the selectmen’s minutes from March 21, 2011.
Flanagan did not return a phone call before press deadline.
Hattie Bernstein can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 24, or firstname.lastname@example.org.