Sgt. Michael Kurland leans over to look at a document with his lawyers during Thursday afternoon's hearing.
Fired police sergeant in court to claim bias
BROOKLINE – Fired police Sgt. Michael Kurland gets his day in court Tuesday when his attorneys ask a judge to reverse the town’s decision to let him go. Kurland is also asking for an independent investigation, asserting that the police chief who recommended his firing was biased against him.
The chief held a grudge, Kurland maintains, because of an interaction the former police sergeant had with the chief’s son during a routine stop.
Kurland joined the Brookline Police Department in 1998 and was promoted to second in command in 2007. He ran the department’s school drug awareness program, DARE, for 10 years, and after he was fired, the program was canceled.
At the end of April 2010, after the Board of Selectmen fired Police Chief Thomas Goulden without giving a reason, it made Kurland the interim chief.
Kurland served in that job for six months while the town conducted a search for a permanent chief.
Kurland was one of roughly 15 candidates who applied for the top post, and he was also a finalist in the process that led to the appointment of William Quigley III, a retired state trooper, who took over Oct. 25, 2010.
Quigley began his career in Hollis and was a Brookline resident for many years. His grandfather was a former Brookline police chief, and his father was a police chief in the Nashua Police Department.
Kurland has maintained that Quigley was out to get him from the beginning.
Three weeks after joining the department, the new chief issued the first in a series of memos to Kurland, citing allegations of misconduct.
On Dec. 14, 2010, Quigley placed the sergeant on administrative leave.
In January, in a letter to the Board of Selectmen, Quigley reported that Kurland had violated 26 Police Department conduct or discipline rules. Later, the chief revised the list, saying one charge was unfounded.
The alleged infractions cited by the chief stemmed from three events: Kurland’s purchase of Ugg slippers for his wife, charged on his uniform account and afterwards paid back; Kurland’s communication with a new officer about his start date, without Quigley’s OK; and the solicitation of a donation for the Neighborhood Watch program from a local businessman.
The chief maintained that Kurland failed to display “absolute honesty” and used his position for personal gain.
Two selectmen who opposed the firing argued that Police Department policies were contradictory and left room for interpretation. They also asserted that while the sergeant should have been disciplined, the charges did not rise to the level of termination. One of the selectmen also observed that the chief made no attempt to employ positive discipline to rectify the situation.
In the six months Kurland served as interim chief, he was praised publicly by the Board of Selectmen.
According to his lawyers, moreover, Kurland had never been disciplined during his 13-year tenure with the Police Department.
Kurland is asking the town to reopen the investigation that led to his firing.
He and his attorneys will have two hours Tuesday afternoon to convince a judge to reverse the town’s decision.
Hattie Bernstein can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 24 or email@example.com.