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Manchester chief on alderman's allegations: 'He was deemed to be lying'

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 15. 2014 10:59PM
Manchester Police Chief David Mara, left, and Alderman-at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur. 

MANCHESTER - Police Chief David Mara says it came as no surprise that the Attorney General's Office found allegations by Alderman-at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur against his department to be "untruthful."

"We knew that what he was saying was false from the beginning, so I have no feeling of vindication," Mara said in a telephone interview Friday.

"We knew they were lies, we knew they were false accusations, I'm just happy the report came out and the citizens of Manchester can see what we knew all along."

Levasseur, a lawyer, says his allegations of intimidation of himself and a client were made in an email to Mara last summer because they involved Manchester personnel. One situation involved a confrontation he'd had with a union official after an aldermen meeting; the other involved the investigation of a Manchester patrolman accused of assaulting his client in Hooksett.

Mara turned over the matter to the Attorney General's Office.

On Friday, Levasseur said, "It's a masterful play by Mara to turn the issue on to me. They've been after me since I started the job four years ago."

In an email to Mara last summer, Levasseur alleged the following: that Steve Maloney, president of the city police union, tried to intimidate him as an elected city official; that another civilian employee of the department intimidated Levasseur; and that Maloney has tried to interfere with the investigation in Hooksett.

After an investigation, Foster said the allegations were "unfounded." An unattributed "executive summary" of the findings distributed by the Attorney General's Office referred to Levasseur as "untruthful," a word that does not appear in Foster's official report.

"He was deemed to be lying, being untruthful, in making stories up, that is what this is about," Mara said. "He claims he got threatened by a Manchester police employee during a Board of Aldermen meeting, it didn't happen; he claimed the union president assaulted him, it didn't happen; he claims that the Manchester Police Department has been intimidating him, it didn't happen. All the things he said happened did not happen."

Levasseur refused to back away from the allegations Friday.

"My perception of the event is they were trying to intimidate me," Levasseur said. "My perception at the time is my perception to this day."

Manchester police officers have been ordered to bring a second officer into any interaction with Levasseur.

"We just have to be careful. When they are dealing with him, there have to be at least two people there," Mara said. "He's accused several people in the department of wrongdoing; it's a standing order, this is a very unique situation."

Levasseur maintains he asked Mara to look into the allegations because he believed Manchester officers were intimidating his client in the aftermath of a complaint she made last July against Patrolman William Soucy. In that case, Soucy was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from the incident, which allegedly occurred in Hooksett. The case is still pending.

"I'm a big boy, they can come after me," Levasseur said. "But this was textbook intimidation of a client."

Mara suggested that Levasseur should not be in a position where he cross-examines Manchester police officers in courtrooms. "If you're an elected official, you make decisions affecting police and you vote on issues, and then you cross-examine a police officer," said Mara, who is also an attorney. "I think that is an inherent conflict."

Neither Mara nor Lavasseur plans on doing much differently as a result of Foster's findings.

Levasseur said he will pursue the Hooksett case, for which he said he is not being paid, to its conclusion.

"I'm the only guy in the world who would help her," he said. "This is the price I pay for helping."

Mara said the report won't change the way the department is run.

"It doesn't change anything. I am going to continue to be professional and to do my job; I have an obligation to the people of Manchester," Mara said. "My officers are going to continue to do their job protecting the citizens of Manchester."

Several aldermen declined to comment on the attorney general's findings, but former Alderman Phil Greazzo, who had feuded with Levasseur while in office, said he thought the matter should be referred to the city Public Conduct Board. The board was established to investigate malfeasance by city officers.

"I believe his conduct falls under sections of the charter that allow the aldermen to remove him,'' Greazzo said.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said only that the attorney general's "report speaks for itself.''

As an attorney, Levasseur is subject to the Code of Professional Conduct for attorneys. The ethics code states that it is professional misconduct to "engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

The Attorney General's Office won't say whether it has any plans to present its findings to the Committee on Professional Conduct, which has the authority to investigate attorneys and recommend sanctions.

Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati refused to say whether Foster will make a formal complaint to the committee.

"We recognize our professional obligation," Agati said.

Janet Devito, general counsel to the committee, said a signed formal complaint, verified by a notary public or justice of the peace, is needed to proceed with a formal investigation of a complaint.

It is unclear what weight, if any, Foster's findings might have if the Professional Conduct Committee was to receive such a verified complaint concerning Levasseur's actions in the police controversy.

The report Foster issued is not the product of a formal proceeding in which Levasseur could confront witnesses against him.

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