NEWTOWN, CT – The head of the Newtown Police Union is suing Chief Michael Kehoe over defamatory comments he claims the chief made in the wake of an embezzlement scandal that rocked the union and the department three years ago.
Union President Scott Ruszczyk claims Kehoe damaged his reputation when the chief released a statement to the media blaming him and another union official for not doing enough to safeguard members’ money from theft and bad management.
Ruszczyk was vice president when former union president Andrew Stinson and treasurer Domenic Costello looted the union accounts of more than $180,000, which they admitted using to pay their mortgages and other personal bills.
In 2012, Stinson and Costello were each sentenced to six months in jail for first-degree larceny, and they have since repaid the money.
Ruszczyk brought the defamation suit in state Superior Court in Waterbury in November.
“The defendant made the statement about the plaintiff maliciously, in bad faith and with intent to cause harm to the reputation of the plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.
In an answer to the lawsuit, filed by his attorney in March, Kehoe claimed he can’t be held liable for the statements because they are true, and that he is immune to legal action because they were made in the course of his duties as a municipal employee.
The lawsuit was filed against Kehoe personally, and neither the town nor the police department were named as defendants. The case is still pending, according to the state Judicial Department web site.
Neither Eric Brown, the police union attorney who is representing Ruszczyk, nor Mark Perkins, the lawyer for the chief, could be reached for comment Monday.
According to court papers, Ruszczyk claims his “professional integrity as a police officer” was damaged when Kehoe issued a statement accusing him of “clear disregard” of his fiduciary and union responsibilities to ensure the funds were safeguarded from “theft, bad investments or inappropriate management.”
The inaction, Kehoe said, “brought discredit to the Newtown Police Union and the Newtown Department of Police Services,” according to the suit.
Ruszczyk said he reported the theft to department officials, and claimed that Kehoe made the statements in retaliation for his raising questions about the chief’s management of funds belonging to the Newtown Police Benevolent Association.
An internal investigation cleared everyone except Stinson and Costello of any wrongdoing. Ruszczyk was never formally accused of doing anything wrong, according to the suit.
In his answer to the lawsuit, Kehoe’s attorney denied the statements were made in retaliation for Ruszczyk questioning the chief’s stewardship of the PBA money.
From The News Times