Carlisle officers’ exits tied to affairs

Town study asked if chief, sergeant acted improperly

By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / January 6, 2011

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CARLISLE — The town’s police chief retired last month after an internal investigation of whether his relationship with a female administrative assistant was improper, according to documents released by the town this week.

In addition, a sergeant resigned following the investigation, which also examined whether a relationship the sergeant had with a woman in town interfered with his police work, the documents show.

The disclosures lifted some of the secrecy that had confounded residents in this small town of 5,000 since both men were placed on administrative leave more than two months ago.

The town administrator’s office released the documents this week after the Globe and The Lowell Sun requested them under the Freedom of Information Act.

Former chief John Sullivan acknowledged when he was questioned by an independent investigator hired by the town that he had had a romantic relationship with the woman, also a special police officer, since 2007, the investigator’s reports stated.

Sullivan told the investigator he tried to keep the relationship quiet. “No, it doesn’t look good for a chief to be dating a subordinate officer — I realize that,’’ he said, according to the documents.

But although he never discussed the relationship with anyone in the department, people in town might have learned about it, he said.

“This is a small community . . . and my secret slowly got out,’’ Sullivan told the investigator.

In both a brief phone conversation and an e-mailed statement yesterday, Sullivan denied that the relationship was improper. He told the town’s Board of Selectmen a year ago about his relationship with his administrative assistant, he said.

“After reviewing the allegations before me, there were many, many allegations that were not founded by fact, but by complete lies, exaggerations, and assumptions,’’ Sullivan wrote in the statement. “. . . [A]s many people know, following my divorce several years ago, I have been dating this individual and making no secret of it. I am aware that certain rules apply to such situations and have, as far as I am concerned, complied with all of them.’’

The investigator’s reports are filled with other officers speculating about the relationship, with some questioning whether the administrative assistant received special treatment. While Sullivan was chief, he increased the hourly pay rate of special police officers from $19 or $21 an hour to $25 an hour so they could earn $200 per patrol shift, Sullivan told the investigator.

“I wanted to keep these guys and told the Board [of Selectmen] about problems filling patrol shifts and thought $200 was a good number per shift,’’ Sullivan told the investigator.

Town Administrator Timothy D. Goddard said the town is not investigating anyone else in the Police Department. Although Sullivan and Sergeant Kevin Cardonne were placed on administrative leave more than two months ago, town officials had not disclosed what allegations they were investigating until they released the investigator’s reports this week.

Yesterday, Goddard defended that decision. “The board really is limited in what it can say about these matters,’’ Cardonne said. “There’s potential litigation and also, under the terms of the separation agreement with Sergeant Cardonne, it cannot discuss the substance of the allegations.’’

When Cardonne resigned, he received only payment for unused vacation and leave time and no severance pay, Goddard said.

In his statement, Sullivan said he decided to retire because he believed that selectmen had already decided he had acted inappropriately.

“One regret I do have is that I elected to take a reduced settlement from the town and to retire early to help avoid the adverse notoriety that it now appears will befall my friends and the department,’’ Sullivan wrote. “Certainly, they have done nothing wrong, and they do not deserve the whispering and innuendos that are likely to result.’’

Cardonne was investigated on allegations that he regularly met up with a woman who lived in town while he was on duty, neglecting his job and failing to back up other police officers, the documents show.

Investigators interviewed other officers who said they had seen Cardonne’s police cruiser often parked at a woman’s house while he was on duty. Some of them also said Cardonne did not back them up on police calls.

Cardonne e-mailed a statement to the Globe yesterday, saying the allegations against him were untrue and blaming the investigation on another Carlisle police officer’s “personal vendetta.’’ The officer made the false allegations because he was angry that he had been disciplined, Cardonne said.

“At no time did I fail to perform my duties,’’ Cardonne wrote. “My work record is exemplary, as is that of Chief John Sullivan.’’

Goddard said the Police Department was functioning well despite the controversy.

“They’ve conducted themselves admirably, considering it’s been a difficult situation,’’ he said. “It’s a small department, and it’s a small town. Everyone knows everyone in town.’’

All names in the investigator’s report, other than Sullivan’s and Cardonne’s, were blacked out.

In Carlisle, residents have been wondering why two of the town’s 11 Police Department employees left their jobs suddenly.

One resident who declined to be named said she and her friends had been guessing what serious misbehavior might have been behind the resignation and retirement. She was betting, she said, on financial impropriety.

Another resident, Frank Cunningham, said he believed town officials acted correctly in investigating a touchy situation.

“The details aren’t terribly interesting to me,’’ he said. “The nature of it, I think, is perhaps inappropriate conduct.’’

Kathleen Burge can be reached at