A judge has restricted the scope of a lawsuit by a former Rutland City police officer who claimed he was forced from his job for bringing corrupt activities by other officers to light.
The decision issued this week also promises to make public a sealed interview with the city police chief.
Andrew Todd, now a Vermont State Police trooper, contends in a lawsuit filed last year that he was forced to leave his job as a corporal at the city’s police force in January 2012 because of systematic discrimination. He claims this included attempts by his lieutenant to build a file to have him fired after he complained about another officer’s conduct.
Todd’s lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, claims officer misconduct within the department, including racial profiling during drug investigations, sex on duty and efforts by the department’s brass and the head of the Police Commission to cover up those activities and focus on driving Todd from the department.
The lengthy descriptions of alleged corruption inside the department prompted Judge Helen Toor in January to issue a protective order limiting evidence to claims based on “racial discrimination and a racially hostile environment.”
“All dirt is not relevant dirt,” the judge wrote. “Who various defendants were sleeping with or whether they were drinking on the job may be serious concerns for the city and might be the basis for other claims against them, but have nothing to do with whether there was racial discrimination or a civil conspiracy against Todd.”
That order led to a series of motions for protective orders from the city’s former attorney, Andrew Costello, as well as former police Sgt. John Johnson, Patrolman Frank Post and Lt. Kevin Geno, who is still on the force. Johnson, Post and Geno are defendants in the case.
Geno and Rutland Police Chief James Baker also asked the court to seal a deposition with Todd’s attorney this spring.
In a decision on those motions issued this week, Toor granted Johnson and Post’s requests for protection from being re-interviewed and from having uncensored copies of internal investigations involving them entered into the court record.
However, the judge declined to seal interviews given by Geno and Baker. While depositions are generally not part of the public record, Baker’s deposition was filed as an attachment to a motion and was therefore part of the public record before the city requested to have it sealed.
As of Friday afternoon the document was not available in Rutland civil court, where a clerk said she was waiting for direction from the judge on how to treat the deposition.
The judge also blocked an attempt by Todd to depose Costello, and she disallowed any evidence after Todd quit his job with the city in January 2012.
In prior court filings, Todd’s attorney John Paul Faignant argued that events after Todd left the department directly affected his case against Baker and Police Commission Chairman Larry Jensen.
Faignant argued that Baker and Jensen failed to follow through with internal investigations into Todd’s claim that Geno was building a case to have him fired for being a whistleblower and an assertion that Tucker turned a blind eye to an alleged theft committed by Johnson.
Toor also specified in her ruling that evidence brought by Todd would be limited to charges of racial discrimination, racial profiling or racially charged language, inappropriate conduct directed at Todd and retaliatory acts taken against him for complaining about misconduct by other officers in the department.
“Whether or not there is an ongoing conspiracy, such facts have no relevance to the issue in this case, which is about Todd’s alleged constructive termination in January 2012,” the judge wrote.
Attorneys representing most of the seven defendants in the case couldn’t be reached Friday.
But attorney Brian Monaghan, who represents Johnson and Post, said he and his clients were pleased with Toor’s decision.
“I know it doesn’t fully resolve the case, but we’re looking forward to resolving it in front of the judge or a jury,” he said.
In his motion for a protective order for his clients, Monaghan offered his own theory for the basis of Todd’s case.
In a footnote in his motion, Monaghan wrote: “(Todd) is a proxy for the union’s effort to unseat Rutland Police Department management. (Todd’s) questions of witnesses bear little relation to his claims, he has earlier in the litigation been willing to report litigation matters to the media, coupled with the close relationship between (Todd’s) counsel and the various members of Rutland’s police union.”
Monaghan declined to comment on the footnote Friday.
Faignant declined to comment on the case Friday.
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