Long Beach police officers sue city, citing political retribution

Long Beach Police cars outside their headquarters on Long Beach Police cars outside their headquarters on Monday, July 28, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Six Long Beach police officers have refiled a lawsuit seeking at least $39 million from the city, alleging they were punished or demoted for backing the Republican Party in the 2011 election.

The six officers originally filed a lawsuit against city officials in May 2012, seeking the same amount for lost wages, promotions and pensions.

All claims against the Long Beach Police Department, city manager and council members were dismissed last month after a federal judge said the six current and former police officers could not prove that their First and 14th Amendment rights were violated.

An amended complaint was filed last week, citing emails allegedly sent to council members and City Manager Jack Schnirman from Democratic Party deputy leader Scott Kohut and then-City Council President Fran Adelson.

Long Beach officials said yesterday the emails in the new court documents had been embellished to incriminate Kohut, Adelson and city officials.

Police officers James Canner, Karl Hayes, James McCormack, Jose Miguez, John Radin and Benjamin Tayne said they were punished for actively campaigning and supporting Republican candidates during the 2011 City Council election and opposing Darlene Tangney, the wife of acting Police Commissioner Michael Tangney, in her failed bid for the Nassau County 4th Legislative District seat.

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The city officials "began to demote, re-assign, change shifts and file baseless, malicious and/or inappropriate and untimely changes and specifications against the plaintiffs as political payback, retribution or retaliation for their support of Republican and Long Beach Coalition candidates," according to the lawsuit.

The emails listed in the new complaint describe Democratic Party members planning to punish police officers for campaigning against Tangney.

The officers said their grievances filed with police union president Stefan Chernaski were ignored.

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"Word is that the current administration is promoting 2 Sergeants to Lieutenant later today," an email attributed to Kohut said. "The first thing we do when we get in is demote, re-assign, and punish these guys."

Another email attributed to Adelson said an officer should be fired after applying for police commissioner and said another candidate was going to be a traffic guard as payback for campaigning for Republicans.

Keith Frank, a Uniondale-based attorney hired by the city, said yesterday the original emails had been verified and "further review shows that the documents relied upon [in the new filing] were doctored. I can say confidently these emails are not what they appear to be."

Eric Rothstein, a Manhattan-based attorney representing the six officers, said he stands by the emails and is expecting to review additional evidence in the case.

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