LOWELL MA Aug 7 2017 -- The UMass Lowell Police Department engaged in a patronage hiring scheme that brought more than a dozen retired New Hampshire officers to Lowell, allowing them to collect pensions in both states, according to a lawsuit filed against university officials.
The 2016 suit, which is ongoing, was brought by Timothy McLaughlin and Paulino Carteiro, two former campus security officers who claim they were denied the opportunity for promotion because of the hirings and were then fired when they complained about the practice. It also alleges that the New Hampshire-based officers formed an exclusive group -- known as "team New Hampshire" -- and exchanged emails with offensive comments about women.
"This case is not a run-of-the-mill employer/employee dispute," Laurence Sweeney, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, wrote in a statement.
McLaughlin and Carteiro were fired for "bringing to light a sham hiring practice of the University of Massachusetts Lowell Police Department, which my clients claim resulted in a waste of taxpayer funds and safety issues for the community, and for complaining about sexual misconduct of certain UMass Lowell police officers," he added.
The Attorney General's Office, which is representing former UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan, UMass Lowell police Chief Randolph Brashears and the other defendants, has motioned for the case to be dismissed.
In a court filing, attorneys argued that the plaintiffs have not produced facts showing any wrongdoing.
UMass Lowell is not named as a defendant in the case and declined to discuss the litigation because it is ongoing.
"University police, like all departments at UMass Lowell, follow the university's comprehensive hiring policies for new employees," spokesman Jonathan Strunk said.
When Brashears moved from Maryland to take over the department in 2010 he took up residence in Nashua, according to the lawsuit. He declined to comment for this story, referring questions to the university.
Over the course of the next two years, Brashears hired 13 retired New Hampshire police officers, 10 of whom had worked for the Nashua Police Department. The department had 34 sworn officers as of 2015.
Three of those retired Nashua officers were hired for new positions -- deputy chief, communications and security manager, and chaplain -- that Brashears created, according to the lawsuit.
By taking positions with the state university system, the retired New Hampshire officers became eligible to collect pensions in both states. Five of them were already collecting pensions in excess of $80,000 in New Hampshire.
The lawsuit claims the UML police hired an additional three employees with personal or business ties to retired Nashua officers.
From 2010 to 2013, while the Nashua officers were hired, McLaughlin, Carteiro and other UML security officers were attempting to gain promotions to become UML police officers.
The hiring of the New Hampshire officers blocked their opportunities for advancement, according to the lawsuit, and put the university community at risk because some of the New Hampshire officers treated their positions as avenues to a second pension and avoided enforcing the law in difficult situations.
Lawyers for the defendants -- Meehan, Brashears, and seven UML police officers -- have denied those allegations.
In 2012, Carteiro sent an anonymous letter to several media outlets and federal law enforcement agencies. It detailed the alleged patronage hirings and several instances of misconduct toward women.
In one case, UML Officer Joseph Brown sent an email with the subject line "for men only..." to an email address allegedly shared by the UML officers from New Hampshire.
The message, which was shared around the department, contained more than a dozen offensive jokes about women, including "What do you say to a woman with 2 black eyes? Nothing, she's already been told twice."
Several months before Brown distributed that email, McLaughlin reported another incident to his superiors.
In October 2012, McLaughlin observed Officer Mark Schaaf and several other employees watching an internet video of a woman exercising, according to the lawsuit. The woman was the victim of a recent alleged sexual assault and Schaaf commented "she's more of a slut than a victim" and told another officer to come look at her breasts.
After Carteiro sent the anonymous letter to the media and law enforcement, he sent a second letter to Meehan, claiming to be the parent of a female university student. In that letter, he wrote that he was concerned for the safety of his "daughter" because UML police were frequently seen parked outside donut shops for extended periods of time during their shifts.
The UML police department began investigating the anonymous letters. They interviewed McLaughlin and Carteiro and brought them up for disciplinary hearings based on an alleged threat made in the first anonymous letter.
"My fear is that the hostile work environment we currently face creates an environment in which one of us or myself will snap, and this will put the safety of the entire university at risk," Carteiro wrote in the letter.
UML fired McLaughlin and Carteiro following the hearings. The defendants claim they were fired for making false threats against the university and false statements about the UML police hiring practices.