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August 30. 2013 12:32AM

Heated encounter between alderman, police union chief recounted

MANCHESTER — Several aldermen who witnessed a heated encounter in January between Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur and the head of the city police union say there was no physical contact between the two men.

Levasseur has alleged that he was threatened and jabbed in the chest by Officer Steven Maloney, president of the Manchester Police Patrolmen's Association, outside City Hall on Jan. 15, following an aldermen's meeting.

On Monday, Police Chief David Mara sent a letter to Attorney General Joseph Foster requesting that his office investigate Levasseur's claims that Maloney's behavior that evening, and in subsequent public comments, constitutes unlawful intimidation.

The encounter between Levasseur and Maloney that January night came after the union president and several of his colleagues, including an officer who was shot while on duty, spoke out against the alderman at the meeting.

Maloney called on Levasseur to resign over public comments he made that he said "smeared the reputation" of the force.

Following the January encounter, Levasseur told the New Hampshire Union Leader that Maloney got in his face, called him a coward — along with several epithets — and ordered him to kneel on the ground. He said Maloney had to be pulled away from him.

However, two aldermen who witnessed the encounter characterized it as a shouting match that did not involve physical contact.

"I saw the whole thing," Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long said. "They were both trying to demean each other."

Long said the two didn't have to be physically separated. "They weren't pulled apart. They walked away. Alderman Levasseur walked away," he said.

Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy has also said that there was no physical contact between Levasseur and Maloney, but he would not comment further now that the matter was "under investigation."

Ward 11 Alderman Phil Greazzo said he saw the two arguing and told Mayor Ted Gatsas, as he was leaving in his car, that he should probably intervene. "Then I moved along," he said, adding that he didn't see any physical contact between the men.

Gatsas said he had no comment. "The chief referred (the matter), and it's under investigation," he said.

The investigation raises the possibility that several elected officials and city employees may be interviewed as part of a state probe. Others on hand for the incident include City Clerk Matthew Normand and the City Hall security guard.

There is a security camera at the entrance to City Hall, but the guard has indicated that the encounter took place outside its view; the camera doesn't record sound.

Mara referred the matter to the attorney general following an email he received last month from Levasseur, who was upset that Maloney had made negative comments about him on a local blog.

"The thin blue line baloney has gone too far," Levasseur wrote. "We are talking about the safety of an elected official. We are talking about statements that can be seen as threatening and quite possibly could inflame someone to do something stupid to either myself or my family."

Levasseur did not request an investigation by the attorney general, although he had been in contact with the office about another case involving Manchester police, and he indicated in his email to Mara that "he may be forced to take this matter to a higher level."

A message left Thursday with the Attorney General's Office was not returned.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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