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Michael Kurland listens to comments during his bench trial in Hillsborough County Superior Court Tuesday, January 24, 2012. He is suing the town of Brookline, where he was fired as a sergeant and interim police chief by the Board of Selectman.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Brookline prevails in wrongful termination suit filed by former sergeant

NASHUA – Former Brookline Police Sgt. Michael Kurland has lost his lawsuit against the town, according to records filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

Kurland, who served as interim police chief before Chief William Quigley III was hired in October 2010, asked the court to reverse the Board of Selectmen’s decision to fire him. Kurland was seeking a new disciplinary hearing based on an independent investigation or for the town to pay him back wages, health care costs and legal fees.

Kurland claimed town leaders relied on a biased investigation when they dismissed him last year.

Judge Diane Nicolosi ruled in the town’s favor on every count, deciding that the town provided Kurland more than enough due process, that Kurland did not prove any specific bias on the part of selectmen and that the board’s deliberations show it did not make an unjust or unreasonable decision to fire Kurland.

“In sum, the town’s proceedings afforded the petitioner more than sufficient process in that he received a fair hearing after adequate notice with an appropriate burden of proof,” Nicolosi wrote.

Quigley recommended Kurland’s firing to selectmen based on several situations he said violated police discipline and conduct codes, including an overdrawn uniform account that included a receipt for a pair of women’s Ugg slippers, although Kurland had reimbursed the town for the slippers.

Also, communication with a prospective new hire, whom the chief accused Kurland of giving a start date to before he had concluded a background check. There also were allegations Kurland 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.

The two sides met at Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua on Jan. 24 for the trial.

At the trial, Kurland’s attorney, Robert McKenney, told Nicolosi that Quigley’s internal investigation was so biased that selectmen violated Kurland’s rights to due process by basing their votes on it.

“They relied on Chief Quigley’s biased investigation,” McKenney said, adding that Quigley acted as “investigator, prosecutor and chief witness” against Kurland.

“This isn’t about Mr. Kurland getting a second bite at the apple. It’s about him getting a fair bite at the apple,” McKenney said.

In her decision, Nicolosi wrote that Kurland’s due process rights do not guarantee him a “perfect investigation.”

The record is clear that selectmen didn’t use only Quigley’s investigation and in fact cleared Kurland of all but six of the 19 charges against him, Nicolosi ruled.

Selectmen fired Kurland on April 4. He had been on administrative leave since the previous December, after Quigley accused him of violating 26 departmental policies.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).