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Jason Defina v. Town of Hooksett

April 10, 2012

JASON DEFINA
v.
TOWN OF HOOKSETT, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul Barbadoro United States District Judge

Opinion No. 2012 DNH 70

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Jason Defina sued the Town of Hooksett, the Hooksett Police Commission, and Police Chief Stephen Agrafiotis alleging constitutional and state law claims arising from his termination from the Hooksett Police Department. Agrafiotis moves to dismiss two of Defina's claims against him: violation of his due process rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and wrongful termination. Defina objects. In this Memorandum and Order, I grant Agrafiotis's motion to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

Defina was hired as a patrolman for the Hooksett Police Department ("HPD") on July 6, 1999. He worked at the HPD for the next five and a half years without incident as a pistol, rifle, and baton instructor, as well as a field training officer for new recruits.

On January 10, 2005, Defina and Sergeant Greg Martakos met with Police Commissioner Richard Bairham to discuss "abusive" HPD practices. Those practices included the use of internal investigations to intimidate officers who were critical of Agrafiotis and various "preferential and vindictive personnel practices." In addition, Defina and Martakos expressed their concern regarding Agrafiotis's mental stability and referenced a specific incident involving a civilian employee where Agrafiotis improperly reached for his weapon. Another Commissioner, David Gagnon, requested that Defina and Martakos put their concerns in writing.

On January 17, Defina and Martakos filed a written complaint against Agrafiotis on behalf of themselves and certain other officers and civilian employees. The next day, the Commission voted to place Agrafiotis on leave.

The Commission appointed an outside investigator, Gerald J. Hayes, to look into the complaints against Agrafiotis and designated Defina as the liaison with Hayes. Defina acted as the liaison for the duration of the investigation but complained to the Commission that it had improperly interfered with the investigation by prohibiting Hayes from interviewing former HPD employees. On March 28, the Commission sent a memorandum to the HPD stating that based upon Hayes's investigation, Agrafiotis was being reinstated as chief of the department.

Over the next few years, Agrafiotis engaged in a pattern of retaliation and harassment against Defina for initiating the complaint. The retaliatory actions included bringing false disciplinary charges, manipulating disciplinary investigations in order to secure findings of misconduct, influencing other officers to prepare false and negative personnel evaluations, and denying Defina promotional opportunities.

In April 2008, Defina was assigned to serve as the School Resource Officer ("SRO") for the Hooksett School District. In October 2008, Agrafiotis directed Defina to reduce the number of hours he spent on his SRO duties to two hours each day. Maura Ouellette, the chair of the Hooksett School Board, sent a letter to a local newspaper, the Hooksett Banner, discussing and complaining about the HPD's decision to reduce Defina's SRO hours. Shortly thereafter, an article appeared in the Hooksett Banner criticizing the reduction of hours.

Agrafiotis directed Defina to contact the author of the article to respond to the criticisms. Defina attempted but failed to contact the author and was disciplined.

On November 14, 2008, on Defina's day off, Agrafiotis directed Defina to come to the Hooksett police station and draft a report addressing the issues in Ouellette's letter and the newspaper article. Defina drafted a report that Agrafiotis deemed to be unsatisfactory. Thereafter, other officers in the HPD prepared a report for Defina, and Defina reluctantly signed his name to it despite believing it to be inaccurate.

In the following months, Agrafiotis continued to take retaliatory actions against Defina, including instituting numerous disciplinary actions and removing him from his SRO position. Although Defina had received positive daily evaluations from his supervisor, the Commission voted to terminate Defina on September 8, 2009, for unsatisfactory ...


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