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Suspended Clarkstown Chief Sues City, Town Board Members To Be Reinstated

Suspended Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan has filed a lawsuit to be reinstated at his job.
Suspended Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan has filed a lawsuit to be reinstated at his job. Photo Credit: Clarkstown Police Department

CLARKSTOWN, N.Y. -- Suspended Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan has filed suit against the Town of Clarkstown, the Town Board, and each council member individually, to be reinstated and to have all charges against him dropped.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Supreme Court of Rockland County by Sullivan's attorney Richard Glickel, alleges that Town Supervisor George Hoehmann and others acted illegally as a nonexistent police commission, violated the open meeting laws, and acted in violation of lawful procedure to remove and reassign a police officer.

The suit also claims that Hoehmann and Council member's John Noto and Frank Borelli acted to "publicly humiliate and marginalize his standing," within the department.

Sullivan was suspended in late July on charges that included incompetence and misconduct due to the chief’s social media postings about a former officer and his response to a demand that an officer be reassigned.

Before being suspended, the three had asked Sullivan to resign or retire early to avoid any charges, he declined and was suspended. He was also immediately locked out of the police department and prevented access to any employees or any of his belongings.

On Monday, the town filed another 15 charges against the chief that hint at unlawful surveillance practices. Hoehmann's chief of staff, Vincent Balascio contacted on Tuesday, said the supervisor stands by all of the charges.

The trouble between Sullivan and Hoehmann began almost immediately following the supervisor's election to office last year over the board's hiring of a firm to study how to reduce costs in the $50 million Police Department.

The problems escalated when Sullivan claims that he was ordered by the town's deputy town attorney through Hoehmann to investigate Clarkstown Police Sgt. Stephen Cole-Hatchard to find out if he had revealed confidential personnel-related information to a reporter from the Journal News.

The following morning, Sullivan interviewed Cole-Hatchard and determined that although he did talk via email with a Journal News reporter, the exchange did not include any personnel-related information.

That same afternoon, Hoehmann directed Sullivan to immediately remove Cole-Hatchard from the Strategic Intelligence Unit and reassign him to the detective bureau. He was also prevented from any contact with the media.

In addition, Hoehmann and other board members began receiving copies of emails of Cole-Hatchard from the town's IT department. The board later began to receive copies of other police department emails as well.

But Sullivan, and a recent federal lawsuit filed by Cole-Hatch against the town, claim Hoehmann was targeting him over emails that discussed a $218,000 political donations that a former town sergeant had arranged on Hoehmann's behalf.

To help investigate the original charges, the board appointed special prosecutor Harrington, as well as former state Attorney General Dennis Vacco as the hearing officer to gather evidence and make a recommendation on the case against Sullivan. Both appointments came during an August meeting.

A hearing on the lawsuit filed today is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 26.

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