Lt. Kiernan Sues Southampton Police Department, Former Chief Wilson

Southampton Town Police Department

A Southampton Town Police Department lieutenant is suing the town and his former boss, claiming that accusations leveled at him in 2012 that led to his suspension have permanently damaged his reputation and his health and that forces conspired against him to try to fire him, to try to have him arrested, to prevent him from becoming captain and to remove him from the Southampton Republican Committee.

The lawsuit alleges that William Wilson pressured Lt. James Kiernan to support his selection as chief and to support his agenda. According to the lawsuit, Wilson—who had been the chief of the Southampton Village Police Department and was applying for the position of chief of the town’s department—requested that Kiernan use his influence as a member of the Southampton Republican Committee to get Republican members of the Town Board to back Wilson’s hiring. Once Wilson was hired, Wilson asked Kiernan to back his reorganization plan, which included “the firing of all the senior ranking police officers,” the lawsuit states. The document goes on to state that after Wilson supported Kiernan’s promotion to lieutenant, Wilson told Kiernan that he must now, in turn, help him and told Kiernan there would be “consequences” if he did not.

According to the lawsuit filed March 21 in U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York, because Kiernan did not comply, Wilson “began a campaign to destroy Plaintiff’s career and ability to participate in his role with the Republican party.”

Lt. James Kiernan was suspended in May 2012 and out of work for six months before a settlement agreement was reached. Wilson had filed disciplinary charges against Kiernan regarding his oversight of the now-defunct Street Crimes Unit, including allegations that Kiernan failed to property supervise an officer who had become addicted to narcotics under his watch. Wilson also accused Kiernan of modifying his time sheets without permission to indicate he had worked at time he had not been working.

According to the lawsuit, Kiernan accepted responsibility for four minor charges out of 32 total departmental charges, which allowed him to get back to work and also avoided a hearing he could not afford. The lawsuit states that confidential information was leaked to the press around that time in order to “further publicly humiliate” Kiernan.

The lawsuit alleges that a case against Kiernan was “manufactured” by a currently employed police officer, but the town board refused a request by the current police chief to bring in an outside investigator.

Kiernan further alleges that a town law to prevent police officers from serving on political committees targeted him personally and did, in fact, force him to resign from the Republican committee. He says he was denied his right to free speech and association and denied the opportunity to be promoted to captain.

Kiernan is seeking $1 million in compensatory and consequential damages plus $5 million from each defendant for punitive and exemplary damages plus interests, costs and attorney fees.

Wilson resigned in November 2012 after 18 months, explaining at the time that he could not accomplish his plans for the department because he lacked the support of a majority of the town board.

“Any litigation that’s filed doesn’t surprise me because of the nature of the litigious society that we live in and I look forward to present the facts of the case in federal court,” Wilson said Friday. He said it would be improper of him to comment on pending litigation and accusations, and that he had not read the lawsuit yet.


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