On July 17, former Londonderry Prosecutor Kevin Coyle sent in his resignation letter to Town Manager Kevin Smith, which became effective on August 4. Coyle had served as prosecutor for 22 years, since December 4, 1994, and had plans to serve for four or five more years, that is, until this summer when he received a negative annual review from Police Chief William Hart.
The evaluations are not open to the public, but up until now, Coyle claims he received high ratings on every annual review. The evaluation scale ranges from one to seven, one being the lowest and most critical of the employee, seven being the highest. During his time as prosecutor, Coyle said he has had a good working relationship with every police chief he has worked with and has always received sixes and sevens.
“I became a five and a four in six months,” he said, regarding his most recent evaluation in July.
Coyle believes the reason for his negative review is retaliation for events that occurred in December of 2016, when he reported that Chief Hart and Deputy Chief Gerard Dussault denied former Sergeant Shannon Coyle, Coyle’s ex-wife, due process at the time of her demotion.
According to the complaint filed on December 16, 2016 by Shannon Coyle to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Sgt. Coyle faced “intense pressure from Deputy Chief Dussault to resign her position as sergeant.” A police officer cannot voluntarily give up rank, and Sgt. Coyle was told on “numerous occasions” to give up her position and claim her resignation was for “family reasons.”
This came as a result of an incident in September, after Lt. Patrick Cheetham filed a complaint against her “alleging that she ordered an unlawful arrest and was discourteous to him.” Deputy Chief Dussault then assigned Lt. Cheetham to conduct an Internal Affairs Investigation, during and after which the complaint document offers evidence that Sgt. Coyle was denied due process from Deputy Chief Dussault, and Chief Hart. The complaint document also names Lt. Cheetham and Town Manager Kevin Smith for violating multiple procedures and policies.
Coyle had followed the investigation, and after Sgt. Coyle’s demotion on December 2, Coyle had a duty as an administrator to report the alleged violations of policy and procedures made by both Deputy Chief Dussault and Chief Hart to Smith.
“I did what I thought I had to do, and I thought the town would do something,” Coyle said.
Some of the violations for Chief Hart, according to the complaint, are failing to provide notice of his intent to demote Sgt. Coyle – P- 106 (IV) (7) (d), demoting Sgt. Coyle without the authority to do so – P- 106 (IV) (7) (b), and failing to provide due process – P- 106 (II) (A).
“How do you take someone’s livelihood away from them without giving them due process? That’s not what law enforcement is supposed to stand for,” said Coyle. “Law enforcement is supposed to stand for and be the pinnacle of due process.”
Hart did not respond regarding the situation.
The Londonderry Police Department’s policies and procedures can be found on the town website.
After filing a report to Smith, Coyle said he followed up with an email detailing his concern for “retaliation from Deputy Chief Dussault and Chief Hart.” Coyle believes no investigation had been thoroughly completed by the town regarding the violations because no one has approached him with any inquiries.
However, Smith explained that “when the Town receives a report that a town employee or town official has violated a town policy or procedure, it is investigated to our satisfaction. No reports or complaints are ignored. When we are satisfied that sufficient information has been obtained, action is taken.”
He continued with, “In the time I have been town manager, I am unaware of instance in which a report was made and no action was taken.”
Sgt. Coyle’s complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that Smith failed to conduct a hearing within five calendar days after being notified that Chief Hart demoted Sgt. Coyle, which was in violation of P-106 (IV) (7) (f): “the Town Manager shall meet with the employee(s) and the Chief of Police within five calendar days of receipt of the recommendation and will render a decision within ten calendar days of that meeting.” Smith was copied on an email Chief Hart sent out two hours after the demotion of Sgt. Coyle, but failed to hold a hearing and had yet to meet with Sgt. Coyle before the complaint was filed.
While Smith was unable to comment on private investigations, Smith did explain that sometimes the course of action regarding a report takes different routes: “The action may be addressing the matter with the employee or official, or it may be closing the investigation as unfounded. It may be that we find as a result of the investigation that the manner in which we are doing something could be improved.”
Coyle believes that Sgt. Coyle was demoted because she is a woman, and says that “the way they treat women [at the police department] is just pathetic, it really is.”
Sgt. Coyle was the first female Sergeant in the department’s history, and now, out of the 19 positions of rank, there is “no longer a single woman of rank.”
“For them to take the only woman of rank, just because she happens to be my ex-wife, and they really thought I would just lay down and not do anything to help her,” Coyle said.
Coyle claims the six months leading up to his review were tense between himself, Smith, and Chief Hart, and that he knew some sort of retaliation was coming.
However, Smith said, “I do not believe that I have enjoyed more or less interaction with Kevin Coyle during the last six months than I had previous to that time.”
When Coyle received his evaluation, he thought, “Well, here it is. This is how it’s going to be.” Coyle then emailed Smith and waited for a week before speaking with a Union representative about resigning.
“If you don’t want me here, I’m okay with leaving, but I’m not going to let you force me out.”
The only way Coyle was going to resign was if he was paid a year’s salary. According to the separation agreement between Coyle and the Town of Londonderry, which is available to the public, upon his last day (August 4), Coyle would be paid $85,889, and his health care benefits would continue throughout the month of August. The document also stated that Coyle agreed to “a full and final release and settlement of all claims” regarding his employment of the town, and gives up the right to come back and sue for any reason.
There was no conversation about his resignation, according to Coyle, and the agreement was settled fairly quickly. Coyle does question why no members of the Town Council brought his resignation up at any meetings.
“No one asked, ‘Why are we paying this guy $86,000 to leave?’”
Although Coyle no longer works as a prosecutor for Londonderry, he is still employed by the town of Sandown and will continue to prosecute there.
“I truly am glad I left,” he said, though he would have liked to stay for a few more years.
Coyle’s position as prosecutor has been filled by Adria Farr, Senior Entertainment Supervisor and Marketing/Entertainment Assistant Manager at Canobie Lake Park. According to Farr’s LinkedIn profile, Farr received a B.A. in History in 2010 from University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and both a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Intellectual Property Law and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from University of New Hampshire School of Law.