A federal district court judge this week threw out a case against the former chief of the Southampton Town Police Department and the town by a top department lieutenant who charged he was harassed for not supporting his boss’s political ambitions.
In a Jan. 9 ruling, U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein granted an order dismissing the case against former chief William Wilson, who had been accused of violating the civil rights of Lt. James Kiernan. An attorney for Kiernan said his client will appeal.
The decision involved a scandal that rocked the East End department four years ago. An officer’s addiction to opioid pain pills had led to the vacating of criminal convictions against seven men, including several who were freed while serving prison time.
Kiernan had charged that a series of actions against him while those criminal cases unraveled were the result of his 2011 refusal to support Wilson when he was still a candidate for the job of chief. Wilson got the job, but since has left the force.
Kiernan’s suit charged Wilson denied him promotions, filed department charges against him and leaked confidential information to the news media in a campaign of retribution for his failure to support Wilson for chief.
Feuerstein ruled Kiernan failed to show that his “alleged mistreatment,” including attempts to have him demoted and arrested, and his personnel file disseminated, “was the result of his lack of political support for Wilson’s candidacy for the chief of police position,” or for Wilson’s “proposed reorganization plan” for the department.
Wilson steadfastly denied the charges of retaliation. Kiernan and the Southampton department were the subject of numerous news stories about the “turmoil” on the force, much of it stemming from the opioid addition of officer Eric Sickles, including an internal affairs investigation of Kiernan that ended in a settlement. He and Sickles remain on the force.
Jason Abelove, Kiernan’s attorney, said already had begun the process of appealing the case.
“We’re very disappointed with the ruling, we don’t agree with the judge’s decision and we will start the process of appealing immediately,” he said.
Wilson’s attorney, Brian Sokoloff, applauded the ruling, saying, “The dark cloud of suspicion and accusation against former Chief Wilson for the last four years has finally lifted.”