Ex-New Boston officer accuses supervisor of sexual harassment, rating women on a “rapability” scale 

  • Lt. Michael Masella, on right, is accused in a lawsuit of harassing former New Boston Police officer Alexandra Drake, second from right, and making lewd comments about women, including rating them on a “rapability” scale. On the far left is New Boston Police Chief James Brace. Second to the left is Officer Stephen Case. In the middle is Governor Maggie Hassan. 

  • Lt. Michael Masella, on right, is accused in a lawsuit of harassing former New Boston Police officer Alexandra Drake, second from right, and making lewd comments about women, including rating them on a “rapability” scale. On the far left is New Boston Police Chief James Brace. Second to the left is Officer Stephen Case. 

Monitor staff
Published: 10/28/2016 1:31:03 AM

An ex-New Boston police officer is suing her former employer, alleging she was sexually harassed by the department’s lieutenant and wrongfully fired after she brought a complaint against him.

Alexandra Drake, 24, of Nashua argues in the 36-page civil lawsuit that the police department failed to investigate the unlawful conduct and instead “made false, slanderous and libelous allegations” against her. She is seeking compensatory damages, including loss of pay and pension, as well as reimbursement for expenses she incurred as a result of her termination.

Drake accuses her former supervisor, Lt. Michael Masella of Londonderry, of making inappropriate comments that caused her to feel uneasy and fearful of getting on his “bad side.” Drake feared the “slightest slip could make her a target of severe harassment, termination of employment or even rape,” the lawsuit states.

Masella made negative comments about his female co-workers, in addition to female drivers he stopped for routine traffic violations, Drake says. She said Masella regularly commented about the attractiveness of female drivers, whom he ranked on a “rapability” scale. Drake says he told her that “he wanted to just take them out and ‘rape’ them rather than issue a citation.”

Masella’s attorney, Brian Cullen of Nashua, said Masella “is shocked by the allegations and absolutely denies them. We believe they were manufactured by her to explain her termination.”

Drake was fired for allegedly falsifying a DWI police report in September 2014, although she maintains Masella ordered her to do it for the benefit of defense attorneys. She said her termination came on the heels of a complaint alleging sexual harassment against Masella, who was never investigated.

The incident tarnished Drake’s reputation and her chances to pursue the career she had dreamed about since childhood, the lawsuit says. She was a top candidate for an officer position in Manchester, and had disclosed altering the police report during a polygraph examination she took as part of the application process.

But the job offer was rescinded after New Boston police Chief James Brace added her name to the state’s Laurie List, she said. The list is a record of police officers whose credibility could be called into question if they testify in criminal trials.

The lawsuit landed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Concord after first being filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester.

Drake’s attorney, Tony Soltani of Epsom, said Thursday the lawsuit raises 14 claims, some of which are based in state law and others in federal law. He said the town of New Boston and the New Boston Police Department have the right to have the matter adjudicated in the higher court, if a federal judge finds the claims have merit.

The defendants have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit. Cullen said his response on behalf of Masella may lead with a motion to dismiss.

Brace issued an email statement Thursday, after the town’s attorney, Donald Lee Smith of Manchester, could not be reached for comment. Town officials declined to discuss the specifics of the lawsuit, but stated “the complaint contains inaccurate information which will be addressed as part of the ongoing legal process.”

Drake began working part-time for New Boston in summer 2013 and a few months later was hired full-time. Masella was her training officer.

It was that December that Drake ran into Masella at a Amherst bank while off duty and he made sexually oriented comments to her about her attire, the lawsuit says. On another occasion, she alleges, Masella showed up uninvited to her home in New Boston and asked if she was naked.

In an interview Thursday, Soltani referred to Masella’s actions as “savage” and said he is disturbed by the evidence.

“I wish they would realize how idiotic their behavior is, how abusive it is,” Soltani said. “It’s fascinating that these people have the gall in 2014-15 in New Hampshire to come up to her and say, ‘You can’t jog in the streets of New Boston, because your clothes, which are a baggy jump suit, are too revealing, too sexy.’ ”

Drake met with Brace in April 2015 to communicate her concerns about Masella. In response, the lawsuit says, Brace told her to follow the chain of command and raise her issues with her supervisor, Masella.

The town, though, said in its response Tuesday that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office conducted a formal investigation into the allegations when they were brought to Brace’s attention.

The lawsuit notes that Drake also sought help from Sgt. Richard Widener, who said he was aware of the sexual harassment complaint and would “take care of it.”

Seven days after Drake met with Brace, Widener filed a formal complaint against Masella. His complaint addressed both the falsified police report and Drake’s allegations of sexual harassment.

Brace responded to the complaint by calling Drake in for an “interview,” which lasted for more than an hour. Drake said Masella witnessed a grueling period of questioning and at one point called her a liar.

Brace recommended to the select board that Drake be terminated. He handed her a letter on Oct. 8, 2015, recommending her termination because she had filed a false report. He also issued her a warning for violating the town’s sexual harassment policy.

The town acted on Brace’s recommendation two months later and fired Drake.

Masella joined the New Boston Police Department in December 2011 after retiring from the Nashua Police Department, where he worked for 23 years. He is paid about $1,000 a week by New Boston for his 32-hour a week position and collects $95,036 in annual pension from the New Hampshire Retirement System.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)

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