A long-simmering feud between Town Manager Jim Duggan and Deputy Police Chief David Chartrand has spilled over into federal court.
Chartrand on July 17 filed a civil-rights lawsuit against Duggan, seeking redress for “the unlawful and unconstitutional targeted bullying and retaliatory misconduct” of the town manager, according to the suit. Chartrand, who is represented by Worcester-based attorney Andrew Gambaccini, is demanding a trial by jury and seeking $1.8 million in punitive and compensatory damages.
The 50-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of the District of Massachusetts details the tangled history between both men and other town officials.
“Using the authority of his office, Duggan unlawfully has taken adverse actions against Chartrand and has retaliated against Chartrand, including through workplace bullying and harassment, the initiation of meritless disciplinary proceedings and the stripping away of Chartrand’s job duties,” the complaint reads. “This calculated campaign was designed by Duggan to injure Chartrand, his career and his reputation.”
Duggan last week said he had not received a notice of the lawsuit. He declined to comment and said any litigation is always referred to town counsel. Messages were left for attorney James A. Hall, who represents Dracut.
Chartrand in 2016 was suspended for two weeks without pay after a Civil Service inquiry into his handling of documents in a Dracut lieutenant’s personnel file. Then-Police Lt. Michael Fleury had accused Chartrand of improperly releasing a letter in his personnel file to The Sun, a sister newspaper of The Valley Dispatch.
Chartrand appealed the town’s decision. Late last year, the state’s Civil Service Commission ruled 3-2 in his favor. The commission hears and decides appeals on such matters as discipline filed by certain state and municipal employees and candidates for positions covered by Civil Service law.
The majority opinion by three commissioners was that Chartrand’s appeal be allowed in part, and that his 10-day suspension be modified and reduced to a written reprimand.
In response, Duggan wrote that, although the original suspension imposed had been modified to a written reprimand, the commission still ruled that Chartrand’s conduct in deliberately disregarding the rights of a fellow superior officer warranted discipline. “The written reprimand will be a permanent record of Deputy Chartrand’s personnel file,” Duggan said in an emailed statement to The Sun.
That suspension, and much more, is included in the lawsuit.
Chartrand last week said there have been numerous actions taken against him that were unjustified. He said he believes they were for personal reasons.
“Because of those, it’s done irreparable harm to myself, my family,” Chartrand told The Sun. “I served this community for many, many years. I’ve done the very best job I possibly can. Because of what’s happened, essentially, my career is over.”
Below are a few of the complaints charged against Duggan, according to the lawsuit.
: Several years ago, the town hired Municipal Resources Inc., a New Hampshire consultancy, to conduct an investigation into the Dracut Police Department. According to the lawsuit filed last week, Chartrand after reading the audit report was taken aback by what he believed to be the “personal and false subjective attack” it represented upon both him and then-Police Chief Kevin Richardson. The lawsuit states that Chartrand told Duggan he could not believe the report’s content and believed work should begin on an immediate rebuttal.
“Duggan responded to Chartrand by stating that the report was a ‘done deal’ and that, while he did not know Chartrand’s plans, if Chartrand wanted to look for work elsewhere, Duggan said that he would provide Chartrand with a recommendation that ignored the MRI material,” the suit reads.
According to the complaint, this was a “thinly veiled threatening, intimidating and coercive message for Chartrand as to Duggan’s intentions.” The suit claims Duggan did not want Chartrand to be in the department any longer.
: Duggan’s reorganization of the Police Department entailed the creation of an additional Deputy Chief position and, according to the lawsuit, the move was designed to impact Chartrand adversely.
: According to the lawsuit, Duggan has interviewed candidates for promotion within the agency and has explained to them that he expects loyalty if they are promoted. Furthermore, the suit claims, Duggan had indicated to those officers that he expects they will not be drinking Chartrand’s “Kool-Aid.”
: The lawsuit also touches on the difficult history between Chartrand and Selectman Tony Archinski, who retired from the Police Department in 2008. Though Archinski is not a defendant in the lawsuit, he is mentioned early on, throughout several pages.
According to the court document, Archinski was angry because Chartrand was chosen as deputy chief. After Duggan was hired as town manager, the suit claims Duggan and Archinski developed and maintained a symbiotic relationship in which the selectman has become a blind supporter of Duggan when it comes to Chartrand. It also charges Duggan with carrying “Archinski’s water” and taking steps to achieve “Archinski’s desire to go after Chartrand.”
Archinski last Friday said he had not read the lawsuit.
“I have not spoken to David Chartrand since I retired 11 years ago and I have not spoken about him in a very long time,” Archinski said. “I don’t recall the last time I even had a conversation with the town manager about David Chartrand.”
Archinski said he and Chartrand did not have a good relationship during his time in the Police Department, adding that he put it all behind him when he retired.
“I think that Chartand has always felt that I had it out for him, but I have definitely put that behind me years ago,” Archinski said. “There are much more important things to do in my life than worry about what David Chartrand does or thinks.”
In response to Archinski’s comments, Chartrand had this to say: “I’d like to thank him for yet again publicly speaking about the animosity he’s had towards me.”
Gambaccini said he and Chartrand are looking forward to the opportunity to question Duggan under oath.