Brian Falk reports for the Old Colony Memorial of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Excerpt:
PLYMOUTH (Aug. 1) – A Plymouth police officer is suing the town for making him take a lie detector test during an internal investigation of an allegation that he improperly touched two young boys.
At the time, the district attorney had already conducted an investigation and decided not to press any charges against officer Kevin J. Furtado. The two boys’ parents had also said they were satisfied that Furtado had done nothing inappropriate.
In the suit, Furtado, 49, claims the town violated his rights under state law by requiring the polygraph as a condition of his employment. According to documents filed in Plymouth Superior Court, Furtado claims damages exceeding $350,000.
The suit, filed July 25 by attorney Joseph Gallitano, also claims unspecified punitive damages for defamation of character, slander and libel by the town. The town’s actions contributed to the dissolution of Furtado’s marriage, according to the suit.
Along with the town, town manager Eleanor Beth and Police Chief Robert Pomeroy are named as individual defendants. Beth said she was served Tuesday, but neither she nor Pomeroy would comment.
“I don’t comment on pending litigation,” Beth said Wednesday. “I have referred it to the town’s insurance company and they will be assigning counsel.”
Pomeroy also said he couldn’t comment on a pending lawsuit.
According to the court documents, two young children, aged 5 and 7, alleged in July 1999 that Furtado touched their private parts while off duty. Pomeroy put Furtado on paid administrative leave and referred the allegation to the district attorney’s office.
After an investigation, the district attorney’s office told Pomeroy in September 1999 it was not filing charges. But a few days later, Pomeroy told Furtado he would conduct an internal investigation before the officer could return to work.
Pomeroy ordered Furtado to write a report in response to the allegations. Furtado admitted to knowing the boys but denied that he had ever touched them improperly. Furtado was granted immunity against any criminal charges for the purpose of Pomeroy’s investigation.
The complaint also includes a November 1999 letter from the boys’ parents, saying that the the allegations were a misunderstanding. The parents urged the chief to reinstate Furtado.
According to the parents’ letter, they took the boys to a pediatrician to “make sense of what (our youngest son) was telling us.” Based on something the younger boy said that concerned her, the pediatrician referred the matter to the department of social services, the letter states. The parents said they complied with the district attorney’s investigation, but thought the situation got out of hand.
They also spoke with Furtado about the allegations and were convinced that he had done nothing wrong, according to their letter.
However, after receiving letters from Furtado and the boys’ parents, Pomeroy asked Furtado to submit to a state police polygraph examination, or lie detector test.
Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 149, Section 19B, says an employer cannot require a polygraph test as a condition of employment. The only exception is a polygraph administered by police in a criminal investigation. Furtado’s criminal investigation had ended at that point.
According to Gallitano’s complaint, the polygraph “established that there were no grounds for any charges of any kind… and that (Furtado) was entitled to return to work.”
But Gallitano claims Pomeroy still asked Furtado to retire or resign before taking the test results to town hall. Furtado refused, and after a cancelled termination hearing, he was reinstated in January 2000.