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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Hillsborough county attorney

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

June 26. 2017 1:37PM
Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan leaves the courtroom during a previous hearing at Hillsborough County Superior Court. A civil lawsuit filed against Hogan earlier this year has been dismissed. (Kimberly Houghton file photo)



NASHUA -- A local judge has dismissed a civil lawsuit filed against Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan that claimed he intentionally withheld public documents.

Judge Philip Mangones at Hillsborough County Superior Court ruled Friday that the plaintiff, a former Weare police officer, has no standing to bring forward the litigation since all of the Right-to-Know requests were filed by her attorney and never identified her as a client.

“After considering the pleadings, the arguments and the applicable law, (Hogan’s) motion to dismiss is granted,” Mangones wrote in his ruling.

Lisa Censabella, a former police officer with the Weare Police Department, filed the civil lawsuit against Hogan earlier this year accusing Hogan of violating several Right-to-Know requests regarding a criminal investigation by his office against former Sgt. Kimberly McSweeney of the Weare Police Department.

On behalf of Censabella, Attorney Tony Soltani of the MuniLaw Group in Epsom filed numerous Right-to-Know requests with Hogan starting in December 2015 seeking information and documents on the criminal investigation against McSweeney; McSweeney was previously involved in a police cruiser accident and allegedly solicited a firefighter to cut the brake lines of her cruiser to cover up the crash, states court records.

Weare Police Chief Sean Kelly previously testified before the New Hampshire Department of Labor that he referred the investigation to Hogan for potential criminal activity.

“Here, it appears undisputed that (Censabella) herself never requested any of the documents she seeks in her petition, and therefore, never had her right of access denied by (Hogan),” Mangones states in newly filed court documents. “While her attorney could have requested the documents on her behalf, the plaintiff’s name does not appear in any of Attorney Soltani’s letters to the defendant.”

Mangones ruled that Censabella is not a person aggrieved under the Right-to-Know law, and therefore does not have any standing to proceed with the litigation, according to court records.

Soltani said earlier that Censabella is searching for documents or other evidence that could potentially impeach McSweeney, alleging that Weare Police Chief Sean Kelly called in his client and chewed her out without the opportunity to be heard based on what McSweeney had reported about the accident.

Evidence that a criminal investigation against McSweeney was underway would help determine whether a separate lawsuit should be initiated by Censabella, who claims she was wrongfully terminated from her job.

Soltani, on behalf of Censabella, is still seeking public documents such as a copy of the accident report involving the cruiser, the electronic version of McSweeney’s internal affairs investigation report that was previously sent to Hogan for criminal review, a disc containing surveillance of the accident and purported coverup and audio recording of interviews from the accident.

“The county attorney does not have those documents,” Carolyn Kirby, defense attorney for Hogan, said earlier. Even if he did, Kirby maintained that it would not be a matter of public record because it involves the personnel record of a police officer.

Kirby recently told the court that some of the requested documents were returned to the Weare Police Department after McSweeney resigned and the police chief closed her internal affairs file and withdrew his request for the county attorney to review the matter.



khoughton@newstote.com


Courts General News Nashua


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