Sgt. John Conte
Cohasset Police Department (Retired)
Cohasset, Ma 02025
Dear Sgt Conte,
As you are aware, while I was Town Manager for the Town of Cohasset, I approved a settlement agreement which called for your early retirement from the Cohasset Police Department. During the last several months, particularly as a result of the investigation into matters concerning Chief Mark Deluca, I have concluded that my actions in your case resulted in a miscarriage of justice.
Upon my appointment as Town Manager, I was led to believe by senior members of the Cohasset Police Department that you were actively undermining the authority of Mark Deluca within the department and at the station. Members of the department reasoned that you resented the appointment of Chief Deluca because you were the other finalist for the position. Given the serious concerns I now have about the veracity of these individuals, I believe this created an unfair bias in the mind of Chief Deluca against you- particularly in disciplinary situations. Since the Police Chief recommends a course of action to both the Town Manager and the Town Attorney, it is my opinion that this bias clouded the judgment of Chief Deluca. As a consequence, concerns about your alleged insubordinate behavior also flavored my actions and the conduct of the case by the town attorney. Thus, it must be overturned and you should be reinstated.
Moreover, as a result of the subsequent investigations of Chief Deluca and Sgt Jeffrey Trainor, I also have serious questions about the objectivity, impartiality and underlying motivations of those involved in the internal affairs investigation of your case. The cornerstone of justice is equal treatment under the law. The internal affairs investigation of your case as well as Sgt Trainor were both conducted by Detective Lt Gregory Lennon. The difference in the manner in which your case was handled compared to that of Sgt Trainor, raises a clear perception of a double standard. I base this opinion upon my direct conversations with Chief Deluca and my own personal knowledge of the friendships between Sgt Trainor, Detective Lennon and Deputy Chief Sgt John Conte ( CPD retired.)
William Quigley. It is also important to note that the principal witness in the most serious charge raised against you was then Lt Quigley. Given the clear embellishment of his testimony in the subsequent investigation of Chief Deluca, I have grave concerns that the same may be true in his testimony about you. I am also concerned about the potential bias of the officers involved.
Shortly after my acceptance of the settlement agreement, then Lt Quigley related his resentment of you stemming from the time you were his supervisor and he was a patrolman. Specifically, this related to an alleged incident involving an intoxicated individual and Tom Wigmore which occurred at the station several years ago. Using a reasonable person standard, this raises a possible bias on his part which should have been disclosed to me prior to his testimony so I could access the credibility of his accusations against you.
Moreover, I should have also considered the testimony of both Detective Lt Lennon and Lt Quigley in light of possible motivations each may have had given the reorganization of the Command Staff which was taking place at the same time of the investigation against you. As you may recall, shortly after my appointment, I proposed and the Board of Selectmen approved the creation of the position of Deputy Chief. It was envisioned that the candidates for the position would come be from the senior leadership of the Department Since you had been a finalist for the post of Chief of the department, it would be only reasonable for other officers to assume that you would also be potential candidate for Deputy Chief.
At the same time your case was being completed, I was informed by Chief Deluca that Lt Lennon had opted not to apply for Deputy Chief meaning that Lt Quigley would be the sole candidate. Given the fact that you would likely have been in competition with Lt Quigley for the position, it is possible that such motivations were present and could have tainted the testimony of Lt Quigley and the actions of Lt Lennon in your investigation. My fears were reinforced in the subsequent investigation of Chief Deluca where Deputy Chief Quigley and Detective Lennon were the principal witnesses for the Acting Town Manager. Given the clear embellishment of issues concerning Chief Deluca by Deputy Chief Quigley, Detective Lt Lennon, Sgt Trainor and Officer Reardon, it is highly likely that the objectivity of those officers was also tainted in their approach to your case.
I am also concerned about the manner in which the leadership of your union handled your case and advocated on your behalf. Upon my decision to approve the creation of a K-9 unit for the department, I was informed by Chief Deluca that he was appointing Union President Reardon to the post. Chief Deluca implying his full support and that of the other union leaders in the chief’s efforts to reign in what he then perceived to be your insubordinate behavior. I also recall reports about calls that had been made to union attorneys which may have undermined your right to have the union advocate fully on your behalf at the proceedings.
For these reasons, I feel that my decision in your case was not the product of fair and impartial justice and that a different disciplinary resolution of your case was warranted.
In principle, the charge before me was an allegation that you had lied to a superior officer in a matter involving restraining order and the confiscation of a firearm. Lying under oath to a superior officer is a charge in which a retirement as opposed to a termination would be considered an appropriate outcome. I am convinced this was not the case and you were a victim of embellished testimony of officers who held a bias against you and a union which at the time of your case breached its responsibility of fair representation to you by supporting Chief Deluca’s objective of bringing your tenure with a Cohasset Police Department to the end. I also believe because of these actions the agreement which I signed on behalf of the town and you was the product of fraud.
If I were still the Town Manager, I would immediately seek to convene a hearing on this matter and impose a fair penalty for the allegations which could be sustained if objective, unbiased and credible evidence was presented. At minimum, it is my belief you should be reinstated with back pay and benefits offset only by the imposition of any reasonable penalty.
While I am not currently Town Manager, as an attorney and officer of the court with a responsibility to correct injustices which have occurred as a result of a decision I have made, I stand ready to assist you and your attorney in any way and in any forum so that justice can be rendered in your case. I also want to apologize both privately and publicly to both you and your family. As you know, I truly believe in the “team” concept and base my approach to public service on basis of the military axiom that an officer protects and takes care of the men he is privileged to command and lead at all costs. In your case, I failed in that responsibility.
As we gather this weekend to celebrate Easter. it is important to note that over two thousand year and thirteen years ago a government official like me sat in judgment and crucified an innocent man. Unlike him, I can not wash my hands of this matter. The only way I can make you and your family whole is to do everything possible to right the wrong that took place in your case.
Michael J. Coughlin, Jr.
(former Cohasset Town Manager)