NEPBA WINS ARBITRATION CASE: City settles case with Northampton police lieutenant

By DUSTY CHRISTENSEN
Staff Writer

Published: 3/25/2019 4:17:47 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city has vacated a three-day suspension previously given to one of the police department’s lieutenants and withdrawn the findings of an internal investigation that accused him of violating department policy.

The settlement between the city and Police Lt. Alan Borowski comes after an arbitrator found in December that police officials mishandled a separate internal investigation of Borowski. The earlier decision overturned a two-day suspension, resulting in Borowski receiving back wages and clearing the matter from his disciplinary record.

In the latest decision, the city withdrew from the grievance process before arbitration, vacating the second of Borowski’s disciplinary suspensions. Borowski has again been awarded back pay, according to his union.

“We are very happy that the process, although costly for all involved, cleared Lt. Borowski from all of these, frankly, ridiculous charges,” Gary Nolan, Borowski’s lawyer from the New England Police Benevolent Association, wrote in a statement. “It is unfortunate, however, that the taxpayers had to foot the hefty bill to prosecute the personal vendetta of the author, or authors, of an anonymous smear campaign.”

In total, the city paid the law firm Sullivan Hayes & Quinn $54,836.52, according to figures supplied by Mayor David Narkewicz. Of that amount, $46,200.17 was spent on the previous arbitration, and $8,636.35 was spent ahead of the second arbitration date.

Borowski declined to comment on the case, referring the Gazette to Nolan and Brian Letzeisen, a city patrol sergeant and the president of the New England Police Benevolent Association Local 187, which represents the police department’s eight sergeants and four lieutenants.

Narkewicz declined further comment on the case. Police Chief Jody Kasper issued the following statement: “The City and the Union came to a mutually agreed upon settlement agreement prior to arbitration. I’m pleased that we were able to settle this matter.”

After the arbitrator overturned Borowski’s first suspension, the city reduced Borowski’s three-day suspension to a written warning, according to Nolan. But the union insisted on moving forward with arbitration, Nolan added.

The three-day suspension was the result of several allegations that emerged from an internal investigation, including that Borowski lost his temper and yelled at subordinates, that he reported false information about the hours he worked, that he used his cruiser for non-police business and that he had feigned illness. In his statement, Nolan said that Borowski was “the subject of an anonymous letter campaign alleging malicious and false statements,” and that those letters “were expressly designed to injure his career.”

 

As a result of its settlement with Borowski, the city has vacated those findings, according to a settlement agreement the city provided with redactions in response to a public records request. The agreement states that although the city cannot amend its internal affairs report, it will attach an addendum noting that the report’s findings have been vacated. The settlement document also states that the agreement is not an admission of wrongdoing by any of the parties involved.

Borowski was the head of the detective bureau prior to the two suspensions but was removed from that position amid the allegations against him. He returned from suspension as a patrol lieutenant — a move Kasper previously told the Gazette did not constitute a demotion.

Letzeisen, the union president, said that as part of the union’s contract with the city, the police chief can assign supervisors as she sees fit. Letzeisen added that Borowski’s reassignment was different than others, however. In his 10 years on the force, Letzeisen said he has only seen reassignment happen because of staffing issues or a promotion.

Borowski’s first suspension came after the department received an anonymous complaint on Aug. 14, 2017, alleging that in February 2016 Borowski had violated the department’s drug drop box policy. But after Borowski and the police union filed a grievance over his suspension, an arbitrator ruled in December that the department, as well as a private consultant, botched the investigation into the claim.

Overall, Letzeisen said he’s pleased with how the process played out, clearing Borowski of wrongdoing. But the process was a long one, he added. The city began its investigation into Borowski in August 2017.

“We’re very fortunate to be represented by the NEPBA,” he said. “We wish it didn’t have to take that long, but we’re happy with the overall outcome.”

Letzeisen said that Borowski had his reputation damaged because of the allegations against him and the subsequent news media coverage. He added that, though Borowski has now been cleared, that damage lingers.

“It’s still going to always be a negative view on him, and it’s just a shame that that can’t be taken fully back,” he said.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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