Once again, improper actions of the now retired/resigned Detective Stephen Cole-Hatchard and the now suspended Chief Sullivan have brought discredit and disgrace upon the Town of Clarkstown and the fine members of the Clarkstown Police Department.
In a recent article we explained the background of an earlier lawsuit brought upon the Town’s taxpayers by the unlawful actions of the suspended Chief Sullivan and his Machiavellian subordinate who headed the Rockland County Strategic Intelligence Unit, Stephen Cole-Hatchard. We also highlighted some of Sullivan’s political positions on the Town’s budget, eruvim, the destruction of public schools, illegal construction at the Palisades Mall, his ‘inspiring last words’ and the loss of a lawsuit brought by ‘We The People‘.
The Town of Clarkstown’s insurance company determined that the lawsuit brought by the group ‘We The People’ which was putting on a play in Haverstraw was indefensible as the Clarkstown Police Department had run their names through one of their databases for no lawful reason. On Facebook the suspended chief Sullivan tried to explain why “Clarkstown” had nothing to do with surveillance of ‘We The People’….. Sullivan stated:
Clarkstown had nothing to do with surveillance of ‘We The People’….. Clarkstown had no business being involved with this (the surveillance of ‘We The People’). And we were not! This was a County unit that did a job for the Haverstraw police department. Clarkstown had nothing to do with it. That is why it is so strange that neither the County or Haverstraw were involved in this lawsuit. Also, ‘We The People’ were never investigated, they were looked into using publicly available records. This was also during the very height of tensions between the police and minority communities. Their report was simple, this group poses no threat to public safety. There were many other groups and individuals that the Strategic Intelligence Unit did this for as well, not just We The People and Black Lives Matter. To this day there is no one who can point to any damage that was done to anyone. No one’s rights were violated, nobody’s freedom of speech or right to assemble were interfered with in anyway. If you would like to read the transcripts of my hearing regarding these matters I would be happy to provide them, however they are lengthy.
The only problem with this explanation is that the head of the Strategic Intelligence Unit, Stephen Cole-Hatchard, was a Clarkstown Police Sergeant being paid by Clarkstown’s taxpayers as a member of the Clarkstown Police Department and the Chief of Police of the Clarkstown Police Department at the time was the suspended Sullivan. Further, as to the claim that “no ones’ rights were violated“, a $300,000 payment to numerous individuals by the insurance company of the Town of Clarkstown on behalf of the taxpayers of the Town and on behalf of Chief Sullivan makes a compelling case that says exactly the opposite.
The suspended Chief Sullivan’s statement that “there were many other groups and individuals that the Strategic Intelligence Unit did this for as well not just ‘We The People’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ has now led to a second lawsuit against the Town of Clarkstown, Sullivan, and Cole-Hatchard which was filed on August 30th, 2017 in Federal Court. Chief Sullivan and Sergeant Cole-Hatchard are both named individually as defendants and five plaintiffs are named individually and as members of ‘Black Lives Matter‘. Notable among the plaintiffs is Dr. Weldon McWilliams IV who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Spring Valley, New York. He is also Assistant professor of History at a local community college and lives in Pomona, New York.
Prior to the filing of the lawsuit, Sarah Wallace of Channel 4’s NBC I-Team revealed details of the lawsuit in an interview with several of the plaintiffs which was broadcast on NBC.
Sarah Wallace: You’re listed with heroin, and police riots, and terrorists. How do you look at that?
BLM Member: You’ve gotta be kidding me?
Sarah Wallace: Do you feel you were targeted by law enforcement?
BLM Member: They are profiling us. I’m a father. I’m a pastor of a church. Why would I spew that kind of evil or that kind of attitude toward anybody?
The main allegations in the lawsuit are as follows:
1) Each member was illegally surveilled when the SIU established electronic ‘Geofences’ and placed ‘Black Lives Matter Movement’ under the same surveillance criteria as ‘Terrorism,’ ‘Gangs,’ ‘Violence,’ ‘Heroin Initiative,’ and ‘Police Riots.’
2) The conduct Mr. Sullivan engaged in was malicious and intentional; accordingly, he is also being sued individually.
3) This case is rather unique in that the Defendant Town of Clarkstown has already admitted that the illegal actions alleged herein have happened. The admissions are contained in their Amended Answer to Co-Defendant Chief of Police Michael Sullivan’s lawsuit initiated against the Town of Clarkstown seeking damages and his reinstatement to his position as Chief of Police.
4) The lawsuit alleges violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
5) The illegality of the Clarkstown Police Department’s actions was so alarming that Town Supervisor George Hoehmann sent a letter to Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin R. Allee seeking investigaion into the racial profiling by the Clarkstown Police Department. The Letter from Supervisor Hoehmann is annexed as Exhibit A to the lawsuit and can be read at the link below.
6) Plaintiffs seek punitive damages: “The acts of the individual defendants were willful, wanton, malicious and oppressive and were motivated solely by a desire to harm Plaintiffs without regard for their rights secured as American citizens and were based on a lack of concern and ill-will toward the Plaintiffs because they were African American and voiced an opinion contrary to their own.”
7) After Supervisor Hoehmann’s election in November 2015 the SIU at the direction of Sullivan and Cole-Hatchard began conducting illegal surveillance of Supervisor Hoehmann’s social media to gather personal information to use to oppose Mr. Hoehmann’s proposed review and reform of the police department. With the knowledge and consent of Chief Sullivan and Sgt. Cole-Hatchard, the SIU began using electronic surveillance to identify individuals with social media posts who supported Supervisor Hoehmann’s fiscal reforms, including that of the police department. SIU analyst, K. Donohue gathered the social media posts of approximately 20 Clarkstown residents who favor fiscal reform of the police department. Once again, none of the individuals were suspected of any criminal activity. Their only ‘crime’ was the political views posted on social media were averse to the financial interests of Chief Sullivan, Cole-Hatchard and the CPD.
8) Like the surveillance report on ‘We The People’ the email cover ‘Notice’ accompanying the (Sheriff) Falco ‘Refresher’ stated that the SIU was a “28 CFR Part 23 compliant agency”. Sheriff Falco did not engage in any criminal conduct nor did Sullivan or Cole-Hatchard have a reasonable suspicion he did so.
9) Sullivan and Cole-Hatchard perceived Clarkstown Town Judge Howard Gerber as a political enemy of the police department. Sullivan and Cole-Hatchard, both while on duty, prepared a potential election strategy to defeat him in his re-election bid. Cole-Hatchard, while on duty with the SIU, wrote: “If [the District Attorney] is going to release it [Gerber’s file] I would think it will wait until a point just before Election Day leaving [Gerber] no time for a response.”
Our belief is that the insurance company for the Town of Clarkstown will also refuse to fight this lawsuit for the same reasons as it found the lawsuit from ‘We The People‘ to be indefensible. Eventually, the taxpayers of the town will have to pay these expenses through vastly increased insurance premiums charged to the Town and thus to the Town’s taxpayers. Each $1 million of such expenses is the equivalent of a 1% rise in Clarkstown’s property taxes.
Sullivan is a man who arrogantly didn’t have the common sense to obey a direct order from his civilian chain of command to return the infamous Clarkstown Police Sergeant Stephen Cole-Hatchard to desk duties from the County Strategic Intelligence Unit located in Pearl River. While Head of that unit, Cole-Hatchard ordered a junior Clarkstown Police Officer to monitor the Facebook page ‘Clarkstown: What They Don’t Want You To Know‘ because of a post ironically titled ‘How Much Should It Take To Run A Police Department?‘ The names of several Clarkstown citizens who liked a post that appeared on the CWTDWYTK Facebook page were forwarded to Sergeant Cole-Hatchard for his review as were the comments members of the public made on the post.
Subsequently, Cole-Hatchard and Sullivan erased their government-issued cellphones. In Sullivan’s first Disciplinary Hearing, the Hearing Officer recommended to the Town Board that Sullivan be suspended without pay for 15 days for that action.
To date the Town Board has taken no action on that recommendation, presumably because they are awaiting the Hearing Officer’s decision on the set of more serious charges facing Sullivan. The Town Board is now fraught with clear conflicts of interest. For example, Town Councilman Caprara is running as a Democrat on the same ticket with Sullivan in the November election. Caprara accepted a $1,000 campaign donation from the suspended Chief and must clearly now recuse himself from voting on any Town Board action with respect to Sullivan’s two Disciplinary Hearings.
As to Cole-Hatchard, when he later learned that his computer was being seized, he immediately removed the hard drive, took it out of the police department’s custody and professionally erased over 10,000 documents belonging to the Town. He later returned to the police department with the blank hard drive in a paper bag, handed it back to the police evidence room personnel, retired, and rode off into the sunset with his six figure pension intact.
That action leads one to ask why nothing has been done by District Attorney Zugibe to address what appears to be Cole-Hatchard’s blatantly illegal actions? It appears Cole-Hatchard stole one of the Town’s hard drives, tampered with it, arrogantly brought it back in a paper bag and then strode off having destroyed evidence that would surely have been used in any legitimate investigation of what the Strategic Intelligence Unit was up to.
What was Zugibe’s response? He declares ‘ad nauseam‘ that the actions of the Strategic Intelligence Unit were examined thoroughly and nothing that it was doing was improper. Well, Mr. Zugibe, was it so ‘not improper’ that it was necessary to destroy over 10,000 documents for you to hold to that position?
Has Zugibe recused himself from any potential investigation because of his past business relationship with Cole-Hatchard? It appears not. His position that Cole-Hatchard and the Strategic Intelligence Unit did nothing wrong is preposterous given the destruction of 10,000+ documents, the loss of one lawsuit without a fight, and the potential loss of this second lawsuit under the same circumstances.
Is it D.A. Zugibe’s position that a law enforcement officer of Cole-Hatchard’s status can:
a) be informed that his government-owned computer is being seized as evidence,
b) steal his hard drive from that computer,
c) take it to an external location and professionally erase over 10,000 town documents,
d) bring the hard drive back to the police department in a paper bag,
e) then retire and yet not be charged with any crime?
As mentioned above the unlawful actions conducted by Sullivan while acting as the Police Chief of Clarkstown and of Clarkstown Police Sergeant, Stephen Cole-Hatchard extended to a previous article written on Rockland Voice. The article and comments made on the Clarkstown: WTDWYTK Facebook page were examined by the SIU and numerous private citizens were presumably subjected to the same treatment as ‘We The People‘ and ‘Black Lives Matter’. We learned the following from testimony given in one of Sullivan’s Disciplinary Hearings.
Officer Donahue, who had retrieved the information Cole-Hatchard requested about the Clarkstown WTDWYTK page, was asked if a statement Chief Sullivan had made in an earlier court document was correct. Sullivan had stated that anyone using Facebook can place their cursor over the names of people who like a post and their names are revealed and that was what the officer was doing to “check that she was using a new Strategic Intelligence Unit system correctly”.
The officer replied that this was NOT an accurate statement. She repeated her response TWICE, categorically denying Sullivan’s testimony. In other words, a police officer in good standing with the Clarkstown Police Department, accompanied by her attorney, testified under subpoena that the suspended Chief of the Clarkstown Police Department, in which she was employed and to whom she ultimately reported, was a liar.
On Sarah Wallace’s Facebook page the suspended Chief’s son, Michael Sullivan, Jr. wrote: “You do realize the man who wrote this law testified in court that nothing illegal was done? This is (sic) stems from the same incident of the town leaking confidential information to the media. I’ll say it again “NO ILLEGAL SURVEILLANCE”. Your town is opening you up to lawsuits and Sara (sic) Wallace should be ashamed for reporting on a story that she did ZERO research on besides speaking with the towns attorney. I don’t believe you’ve ever contacted the other side of these phony lawsuits have you Ms Wallace?”
We look forward with interest to seeing the outcome of the second lawsuit against the suspended chief and his disgraced subordinate, Cole-Hatchard. Sullivan lied about what Cole-Hatchard was doing with respect to the Facebook page Clarkstown: WTDWYTK and one must wonder exactly what he and Cole-Hatchard were doing against other citizens who posed no threat to the security of the Town of Clarkstown or its residents.
In our opinion the Chief’s continuing position being paid over a quarter of a million dollars while suspended has become untenable.