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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, June 19, 2012

Fired Brookline police sergeant files civil suit against selectmen, police chief

BROOKLINE – A fired Brookline police sergeant who lost an administrative appeal of his termination in April has filed a civil suit against the town, claiming wrongful termination, violation of civil rights, emotional distress, among other offenses.

The suit, filed May 30 by an attorney for former Sgt. Michael Kurland, seeks unspecified damages and accuses Police Chief William Quigley and the Board of Selectmen of allegedly violating Kurland’s due process rights when they fired him in April 2011.

The suit claims Quigley violated department policies during an investigation of Kurland’s alleged violations serving with the department and claims the board overlooked numerous issues with his termination recommendation.

The suit comes two months after a superior court judge ruled the town did not do anything unreasonable when it fired Kurland. Judge Diane Nicolosi ruled in the town’s favor on every count, deciding that the town provided Kurland more than enough due process.

According to court documents, however, selectmen did not solely base their decision to fire Kurland on Quigley’s investigation and actually cleared him of all but six of the 19 violations he was accused of.

On Monday, town administrator Tad Putney, who was the chairman of the Board of Selectmen when Kurland was fired, said he had no comment on the lawsuit and deferred any comments to the board or the town’s attorney, Lee Smith.

Current board Chairman Clarence Farwell and Quigley also declined to comment Monday.

Attorneys for the town and Kurland did not return calls and emails Monday.

The lawsuit makes the same arguments used during the administrative appeal, saying Kurland was wrongfully terminated from his position with the Police Department and alleging that Kurland’s firing had less to do with wrongdoing by the sergeant and more to do with Quigley’s “personal bias” against Kurland.

That bias, the suit claims, began years ago, after Kurland had an altercation with a member of the chief’s family.

Kurland had also questioned Quigley’s administrative decisions, court documents state, including shift coverage issues, staffing and budget issues, and issues of overall public safety. The termination, the suit states, was retaliation.

And while Police Department policy requires that disciplinary complaints involving supervisory personnel, such as Kurland, be investigated by an outside agency, the suit claims Quigley himself conducted an investigation into Kurland’s actions.

That investigation, and the board’s subsequent use of its findings to shape their decision to terminate Kurland, the suit alleges, violated the former sergeant’s civil rights.

“Quigley’s fundamentally biased investigation … in direct violation of the policies and procedures of the Brookline Police Department, did not adequately safeguard (Kurland’s) rights and, thus violated due process,” the suit states.

The lawsuit also claims Quigley and the Board of Selectmen intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Kurland leading up to and during the period of his termination, alleging that Quigley engaged in a “targeted and deliberative campaign” to undermine Kurland’s credibility and created a hostile working environment.

Selectmen, the suit continues, caused similar distress by overlooking the alleged bias of Quigley’s investigation and by giving “no consideration to (Kurland’s) years of accomplished and dedicated service” when making their decision to terminate him.

Kurland sought medical treatment for his distress in December 2010, court documents state, and was prescribed medication to treat physical and psychological symptoms.

The more than 30-page suit also claims intentional interference with contractual relations by Quigley, negligent hiring, supervision and retention by the town for hiring Quigley, defamation, false light invasion of privacy by Quigley, and violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act by both the town and the chief.

The situation, the suit claims, has “so stigmatized (Kurland’s) professional and personal reputation that he can no longer earn a living in the only profession for which he is trained.”

The lawsuit is the most recent step in a legal battle that has been ongoing since Kurland’s termination last year.

Kurland was placed on paid administrative leave in December 2010 after several incidents that violated departmental policy, including an overdrawn uniform account that included a receipt for a pair of women’s Ugg slippers. Kurland later reimbursed the town for the slippers.

Quigley also accused Kurland of giving a prospective new hire a start date before completing a background check of the individual and pressuring a local businessman to donate to the local DARE program and cut the price for mounting tires on police cruisers.

Quigley has maintained that Kurland failed to display “absolute honesty” and that the sergeant used his position for personal gain.

This is not the first time a former Police Department employee has sued the town. In 2010, fired Police Chief Thomas Goulden filed suit claiming he had been wrongfully terminated from his position. That case was settled out of court after the town agreed to pay Goulden $65,000 for loss of income, damages and attorney fees.

Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashua telegraph.com. Also follow Curtis on Twitter (Telegraph_DC).