NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 14, 2012

Ex-chief accuses town of slander

Attorney seeking unspecified settlement from Salisbury

SALISBURY — Terming the scandal that brought down former police Chief David L’Esperance “a witch hunt,” attorney Richard W. Kendall said the consequences could be a court battle, but the town may also be able to avoid litigation.

“I would prefer this not be played out in the newspapers,” Kendall said yesterday. “I would hope that (Town Manager Neil) Harrington or the town’s attorney get in touch with me. I don’t see this matter having to become a lengthy trial.”

Last week, Kendall sent presentment letters to Harrington and the five selectmen, putting them on notice that L’Esperance may file a federal civil suit in six months that alleges his reputation was ruined and his state and federal civil rights violated because of the way the town handled allegations made against him, which led to his precipitous fall from grace two years ago.

The letters are required by state law whenever suits against municipalities are considered. The notice gives officials the chance to settle, negotiate, compromise or go to court. Kendall released the letter to The Daily News yesterday, saying it was public information and he had no objections to sharing it.

L’Esperance served as Salisbury’s police chief from April 2006 until early December 2010, mostly with the backing of his superiors. However, on Dec. 6, 2010, he was relieved of duty by Harrington after claims surfaced that he’d engaged in criminal behavior, including trading sex for drugs.

Brought by suspects interviewed by area police departments after arrests on theft charges, the allegations resulted in no charges being filed against L’Esperance. However, the scandal that arose caused L’Esperance to retire from police work, effectively resigning as Salisbury’s chief.

According to Kendall, L’Esperance was slandered and libeled because of the “negligent release” of a poorly researched report on the allegations brought against his client by the original accusers and others, including some members of the police department.

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