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Former Weare lieutenant who resigned amid internal investigation sues town for violating civil rights

Last modified: 6/25/2015 12:30:05 AM
A former lieutenant at the Weare Police Department who was accused of threatening members of his staff, transporting alcohol in a town vehicle and having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a town employee is suing the town, accusing officials of violating his civil rights.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, former lieutenant James Carney and his attorney, Tony Soltani, claim Weare town officials and members of the police department targeted Carney with an internal investigation they say caused him to eventually resign from the department, amid emotional distress.

Carney was a 20-year veteran of the Weare Police Department who resigned July 1, 2013.

In the 71-page lawsuit, Soltani detailed an alleged “pattern of harassment against Carney,” including fellow police officers making false allegations against him, town officials failing to notify him of the result of internal investigations, issuing illegal gag orders and isolating him from colleagues and friends.

The suit stems from events that occurred in the spring of 2013. That March, town officials accused Carney of breaching a number of department policies. In addition to allegations of threatening members of his staff, transporting alcohol in a town vehicle and having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a town employee, Carney was accused of:

∎ Failing to enforce the town’s sexual harassment policies.

∎ Threatening physical harm against a confidential informant.

∎ Sharing employee personnel information with subordinates and third parties, and sharing internal investigation information with third parties.

∎ Coercing subordinates to support his appointment to a command staff position and retaliating against those who he understood did not support his appointment.

∎ Having off-duty physical altercations with civilians and police department employees.

Carney was placed on paid administrative leave at the time, and directed to have no contact with members of the police department other than communicating through emails to then-Chief Gregory Begin.

The town eventually dropped its investigation after Carney resigned, but Carney and Soltani are continuing to press the case, claiming that the town’s “no contact” orders violated Carney’s constitutional right to free speech, assembly and to seek redress from the government.

In an interview Tuesday, Soltani called the town’s orders “downright illegal.”

“Weare has to come back to the fold of living under the United States and New Hampshire Constitutions,” he said. “So far, they have seceded; they can’t do that.”

This is the second time Carney and Soltani have protested the constitutionality of the no contact orders.

In late 2013, they appealed part of a superior court judge’s order to the state Supreme Court, claiming the no contact orders violated Carney’s civil rights. Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled the point moot, because Carney had already retired from service with the town.

Soltani said the gag orders also caused his client serious emotional distress because they barred him from contacting members of the department who were friends, even during a time of illness and a family crisis.

“It’s beyond law; it’s politics and society,” Soltani said. “I saw the damage it did to him.”

Throughout 2013, Carney and Soltani pressed Weare town officials for more information on what Carney was being accused of.

That May, Soltani called the accusations “all nonsense” and said Carney was being retaliated against for making complaints against other members of the department on issues including sexual harassment to falsification of police documents.

The lawsuit filed Monday expands on that, accusing department officers including Lt. Frank Hebert, Sgt. Kim McSweeney and Officers Kenneth Cox, Brandon Montplaisir, Nicholas Nadeau and Sheila Savaria of conspiring to “fabricate stories about Carney to force him out of his job and the police profession without good, just or legitimate or lawful cause,” according to court documents.

If a Weare Police Department employee is being investigated, procedure mandates the investigation be completed in 21 days, with a finding of “sustained” or “not sustained” given at the end, the suit states.

Though the town is no longer investigating Carney, he never received a finding from officials, according to court documents. Still, the original allegations have prevented him from finding another job in law enforcement, according to court documents.

Carney and Soltani are also seeking damages for alleged civil conspiracy and defamation by members of the police department, saying that their allegations against Carney and the subsequent internal investigation caused he and his family financial hardship and damaged his ability to find work elsewhere.

A phone call to the town’s attorney, Mark Broth, was not returned.

Last month, Weare officials settled a lawsuit by Joe Kelley, one of its former police officers who oversaw a deadly drug bust in 2013, but officials have failed to provide any details about the terms or amount of the settlement, despite state law requiring that information to be public.

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen)


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