CLARKSTOWN, N.Y. -- Clarkstown officials successfully petitioned to have a lawsuit filed by suspended Police Chief Michael Sullivan moved from state to federal court on Thursday.
"The chief raised federal constitutional claims in his lawsuit which belong in federal District Court and allowed us the right to move it there," said William Harrington, special prosecutor appointed by Clarkstown to handle the case.
Sullivan's attorney Richard Glickel said the constitutional claims include the violation of the chief's First Amendment right as part of his suspension for including in the charges against him that he posted private information in a blog and on social media.
Glickel said the chief was simply exercising his First Amendment right to comment on a public event that had been reported by several news organizations that was of public interest.
The published news story was about a lawsuit against the town over the amount of benefits owed to a retired police officer. In the article, the town's chief of staff was quoted as blaming the actions on the town's prior administration.
The article was posted on social media and drew numerous negative comments. In turn, the chief responded to the comments to correct the incorrect information provided in the news story, Glickel said.
"I believe the federal court will take a look at the suit and send it right back to the state for a decision," he said. "In the meantime, the chief is not working and his good name continues to be maligned."
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. On Monday, the county filed another 15 charges against the chief.
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