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Milford police chief files complaint with AG
The Milford Daily News - 1/10/2019
Jan. 10--MILFORD -- Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin filed another complaint against the town, this time alleging officials released part of his personnel record to the public.
O'Loughlin had previously filed a discrimination complaint against the town with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination -- for age and disability -- and is in the middle of a lawsuit against Milford and two of its three selectmen.
The original lawsuit was filed in November, after selectmen voted 2-1 not to renew O'Loughlin's contract, then started looking for his replacement.
The most recent complaint was filed with the Attorney General's office in mid-December, but recognized as received by the state this week, according to O'Loughlin's attorney Ernest Horn. It refers to a March 26 letter from selectmen to the chief, in which selectmen express disappointment in O'Loughlin's recollection of two executive session meetings, and refer to "allegations of (O'Loughlin) drinking with (his) subordinates during the work day."
"Although we certainly disagree with the accuracy of this document," Horn said of the March letter, "this document is about his performance as police chief, and arguably a concern about his medical health and well-being."
That makes it a part of O'Loughlin's personnel record, Horn said, and as such should not be released to the public, particularly without the chief's consent and an opportunity for rebuttal.
In response to public records requests, the letter was sent to media outlets, including the Daily News, and, O'Loughlin's letter adds, a resident. In October, the letter was also mailed anonymously to 260 Town Meeting members, Horn said.
"Just imagine that anyone who gets mad at you could simply start sending out copies of your personnel file," Horn said.
O'Loughlin's complaint names two people who responded to public records requests by sending the letter -- attorney Christopher Brown, of Petrini & Associates, P.C., who represents the town in the chief's lawsuit, and Town Administrator Richard Villani.
In his December filing with the court on the original lawsuit, Brown argues the letter is not a personnel record.
Allegations of a public official drinking amount to "a public concern" and "paramount public interest," Brown wrote. That, he said, means the information is not protected under the law.
"The Board's letter of March 26th is not a personnel record," Brown wrote, "and even if it was, the contents of the letter are hardly details of an intimate nature that should not have been released in response to the public records requests that media outlets made to the Town."
Public employees, he added, "have a diminished expectation of privacy in matters relating to their public employment" under state law and legal precedent.
Key to proving the March letter is a personnel file, Horn said, is selectmen's suggestion that Horn "take advantage of the Town's employee assistance program."
"Anything that describes his employment behavior, or anything that arguably could be a medical issue .... how is that not a personnel record?" Horn asked.
Any claim to the contrary, Horn said, is "laughable."
Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or email@example.com. Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.
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