Judge rules Northampton police lieutenant’s case against city, department can proceed

  • Then Detective Lt. Alan Borowski, in red, briefs a team of officers at the scene of the bank robbery that took place at Freedom Credit Union on King Street, in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Northampton Police Department Lt. Alan Borowski GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Nothampton Police Station GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/31/2021 8:28:02 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A judge has ruled that a Northampton Police lieutenant’s civil rights lawsuit against the city, police chief and other department administrators can proceed.

Lt. Alan Borowski filed the lawsuit last fall against Police Chief Jody Kasper, Capt. John Cartledge, former Capt. Dorothy Clayton, an unknown “John Doe” and the city, alleging department leadership “became complicit and willing partners in a false and malicious smear campaign designed to undermine (Borowski’s) successful law enforcement career.”

The lawsuit centers on anonymous allegations made against Borowski, the department’s decision to discipline him and the arbitrator who ultimately ruled that an investigation of Borowski was “not fair,” leading Northampton to rescind that discipline and withdraw its findings of wrongdoing against him. Beginning in the fall of 2017, an independent investigation of the matter found that the high-level case consumed the department in “unending turmoil,” leading to a lack of trust that undermined the department’s effectiveness.

The findings are in a previously unreported August 2019 third-party investigation by the firm Discrimination and Harassment Solutions, obtained earlier this year by the Gazette as part of a broader public records request. The report ultimately recommended, among other findings, that corrective action “not greater than a written reprimand” be taken against Kasper, and that she be required to attend management training over part of her handling of the episode.

“A police department cannot be effective if the officers do not trust and respect each other, as the NPD is experiencing at this time,” the report suggested.

Originally filed in Hampshire Superior Court last year, Borowski’s lawsuit was moved to U.S. District Court, where on July 30 Judge Mark Mastroianni rejected the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case. At that stage of a lawsuit, a judge weighs a plaintiff’s claims in the most favorable light possible in order to decide whether the case should be dismissed. Mastroianni declined to dismiss the case, saying Borowski had adequately alleged “conscience-shocking behavior.”

Anonymous allegations

At the center of the dispute were a series of anonymous allegations somebody made in a letter to Kasper in August 2017, saying that 18 months prior Borowski had removed pills from the department’s drug dropbox and that he was using steroids. Kasper hired independent investigator APD Management to investigate the letter’s accusations. The firm found Borowski had violated policy by removing the pills and Kasper suspended him for two days.

Shortly afterward, Kasper conducted a separate investigation of Borowski after some detectives alleged he had driven his police cruiser with his girlfriend while drunk and had told colleagues their commitment to their children’s activities interfered with their work. Borowski was ultimately suspended for three days over those allegations and removed from his position as head of the detective bureau.

Borowski and his union filed a grievance over his discipline in both cases and ultimately prevailed in overturning both suspensions in March 2019. The city also withdrew all of its findings of wrongdoing stemming from those two investigations.

In his lawsuit, Borowski has maintained that the defendants knew the allegations against him had no basis, that Kasper interfered in APD’s investigation and that she withheld evidence that would exonerate Borowski. The lawsuit alleges Borowski’s superiors “falsely and maliciously” opened the second, internal investigation into him, following a meeting with Detective Peter Fappiano.

In late 2017 and early 2018, the department received two more anonymous letters that threatened Borowski and made allegations that he was involved in an illegal Super Bowl betting pool with prominent Northampton residents, prompting the department to turn that accusation over to the state attorney general’s office, which did not pursue the case.

Borowski’s lawsuit states that he believed Fappiano was involved in the sending of the anonymous letters, but that Kasper refused to properly investigate the matter or turn it over to other law enforcement agencies, despite saying during an arbitration hearing that she, too, suspected Fappiano. The lawsuit alleges Kasper told the attorney general’s office that Fappiano could help them in their investigation of the gambling accusation.

Efforts to reach Fappiano, as well as the lawyers representing the defendants in the lawsuit, were unsuccessful. Kasper and Mayor David Narkewicz both declined to comment on the lawsuit. Fappiano no longer works in the department, according to Kasper.

In a statement, Borowski’s lawyer Peter Perroni said he is pleased with the judge’s decision to allow the case to proceed.

“We now look forward to the deposition phase of this litigation where the individuals involved will be required to provide their testimony under oath,” he said.

Third-party investigation

The city eventually spent $26,225 in 2019 to hire the firm Discrimination and Harassment Solutions, or DHS, to investigate police supervisors’ behavior after Fappiano lodged complaints against Kasper, Clayton, Cartledge, Borowski and Sgt. Brian Letzeisen, alleging they had violated department policies and created a hostile work environment for him.

Among Fappiano’s accusations were that Kasper harassed and intimidated him, based on his telling her that Cartledge was present when Borowski removed the pills, ultimately leading to her disciplining her friend, Borowski. Fappiano alleged that Kasper believed he had written the anonymous letters and retaliated against him by changing his schedule, releasing his name to the media during the original pill incident, and giving his name to state police as a source of information for the gambling investigation, during which they reportedly asked him about the anonymous letters.

DHS found that neither Kasper nor anyone else discriminated against or harassed Fappiano. Though the NPD redacted the firm’s report before giving it to the Gazette, many names that the department redacted can be determined by cross-referencing the report with Borowski’s lawsuit.

The DHS report did find that Kasper told Fappiano she would redact the names of witnesses and officers named in the APD report. But she ultimately failed to redact Fappiano’s name, and because she “misrepresented” that she would redact it, the firm found her actions constituted “conduct unbecoming an officer.”

The firm’s report recommended corrective action “not greater than a written reprimand” be given to Kasper for her actions, and that she attend “management training to learn more effective skills to manage and govern her officers and be given more support to eliminate the divide in the NPD.”

The report also recommended corrective action not greater than a written reprimand for Letzeisen over his interaction with Fappiano in connection with the arbitration process in Borowski’s case.

“Chief Kasper is well-respected by her peers, but by no fault of her own, she was confronted with an unfortunate situation that has divided the entire Department, and she needs to rebuild morale, respect, and professionalism amongst her staff,” the DHS report said.

The report goes on to suggest that the department give supervisors training on team building, and that a third-party mediator help mend fractured relationships among police brass.

Narkewicz declined to comment on the report or personnel matters, including whether any corrective action was ever taken. Kasper said the DHS report shows that, during a challenging time, the department’s leadership worked hard to make sure they were following policy and addressing concerns raised “inside and outside of the building.”

“In the report’s conclusion, the investigator noted that I should have been more clear in an email that I wrote to all NPD staff in 2018,” Kasper said. “The email notified members of NPD that an internal affairs report was being released and invited them to review it. Any inaccurate information was an unintentional error; I always strive to be clear and concise when communicating with staff and to members of the community.”

In the report, Borowski said he believed that Fappiano was out to get him because of, among other reasons, Fappiano’s close relationship with former Police Capt. Scott Savino, who retired in 2013 amid a timecard scam involving an administrative assistant.

Borowski said he had been instrumental in assisting then police chief Russell Sienkiewicz investigate Savino, and eventually took over the job as head of the detective bureau, where he supervised and disciplined Fappiano.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.
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