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April 03. 2012 10:01PM

Judge rules for Brookline over officer's firing

NASHUA — A Superior Court judge has ruled that the town of Brookline had the right to terminate a police sergeant for using the police department's uniform account to buy a pair of Ugg slippers for his wife and breaking several other town and department policies.

Last April, Michael Kurland was terminated by the Brookline Board of Selectmen after Police Chief William Quigley recommended the officer be fired for a total of 19 policy violations. The allegations made by Quigley against Kurland included purchasing a pair of Ugg slippers at Alec's Shoe Store in Nashua on the town's dime while Kurland was acting chief, and not being truthful and forthcoming about the purchase.

Quigley also said Kurland had violated policy by giving a hire date to a potential new officer before the officer's background check had been completed, and pressuring a local business owner into buying Neighborhood Watch signs for the town.

Kurland was put on administrative leave in December, and during a public hearing in March the board heard testimony from Quigley and Kurland and their respective witnesses. In April, after deliberating in two separate meetings, the board found Kurland guilty of six of the 19 violations and terminated him.

Kurland, who had worked for the department since 1998, sued the town in Hillsborough County Superior Court South to get his job back, arguing during a hearing before Judge Diane Nicolosi on Jan. 24 that the board had violated his due process rights, had reached their decision to terminate him based on biased information and said that some members of the board were biased against him. He also argued that his termination was unjust, unreasonable or unlawful.

However, in her ruling released last week, Nicolosi rejected all of Kurland's arguments made through attorneys Robert McKinney and Laurie Perrault, and affirmed that the town had just cause to fire him.

She denied Kurland's argument that he did not receive due process because Quigley didn't bring in an independent investigator, stating that “due process does not … entitle the petitioner to a perfect investigation.”

Nicolosi also said that based on the transcripts of the hearings and the written documents taken into evidence, it was clear that Kurland was given plenty of opportunity to make his case against the allegations, but never offered more than “general allegations of bias and does not allege any specific facts. …” “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.

Nicolosi said in regard to Kurland's termination being unjust, unreasonable or unlawful, that had he been forthright with the police chief about the Uggs purchase when he was first questioned about them, “the matter would likely have been resolved.”

The judge also ruled that a single infraction of a police department policy has been found by the Supreme Court to be sufficient cause to terminate a police officer.

Quigley said Monday that his decision to investigate Kurland when he found things amiss was “exactly what any police chief would have done in that situation.”

But though Quigley said he knew about the ruling, he said he stopped being involved in any discussion about the case a year ago after Kurland was fired, leaving it in the hands of the selectmen, so that he could focus on his job as chief.

“We have marched forward as a police department,” Quigley said, “and we'll continue to keep marching forward.”

Selectman Jack Flanagan said he's pleased that the court has sided with the town.

“I think it shows that the board of selectmen made the right decision,” he said.

But Perreault said the ruling is just the beginning for her client, who will be seeking an appeal at the Supreme Court level and will be filing civil lawsuits against both the town and individuals.

“We're not done yet,” she said.

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