Cohasset’s ongoing battle with its police chief appears to be getting more complicated by the day, with the embattled chief now saying that the town accused him of stealing from a Toys for Tots drive and used a disgraced former police officer in its investigation of his alleged misdeeds.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his suspension five months ago, Chief Mark DeLuca said Monday that he wants to set the record straight and save his reputation.
“Yes, they are ready to fire me, but I want to fight back, because everything [alleged against me] is a lie,” said DeLuca, who was put on paid administrative leave in May.
Case in point, he said, is the charge by the town that he improperly gave away toys collected for a Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.
DeLuca said the Marines authorized giving the toys to the John Winthrop Elementary School in Dorchester; Sergeant Matthew P. Laroche, who coordinated the drive, confirmed that. Also, the principal wrote DeLuca a thank you letter.
DeLuca said another charge against him is that he used Cohasset police to bring private luggage to Logan Airport. He said that the luggage was cancer medication for Cohasset Special Police Officer Robert Hayden, an undersecreatry of the Department of Public Safety in the Cellucci administration, who was leaving for a trip to Ireland, and that Michael Coughlin, then town manager, approved the delivery.
Coughlin, who was fired in March, confirmed that he gave permission for the run. He said he thinks DeLuca is “being crucified because he supported me as town manager.”
Cohasset officials declined to discuss the allegations or investigation of the chief. “This is an ongoing personnel matter, and, as such, we will have no comment,” said Acting Town Manager Michael Milanoski.
In May, Milanoski said DeLuca was suspended because of “numerous serious allegations of misconduct” stemming from complaints by the police union. The allegations included abusing his position as chief, forging documents, and physical abuse, Milanoski said.
Paul Carlson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, confirmed that the private investigator hired by the town counsel to look into the allegations against the chief had been involved in a sex-tape scandal while he was a police officer in Weymouth. Richard Sjoberg was fired by Weymouth in 1993 for “conduct unbecoming a police officer” after it became public that he had taped himself having sex with two women and offered to show the recordings to a fellow officer.
Carlson said Sjoberg’s past has no effect on the investigation of DeLuca. Sjoberg also conducted the probe that cleared Milanoski of an accusation by DeLuca that Milanoski had interfered in the internal police investigation that started the action against the chief.
“I don’t think it should be held against him,” Carlson said of Sjoberg. “He was young and stupid, and he regrets it. If he had ongoing problems, that would be one thing, but he’s been a private investigator for 17 years and has an unblemished record.”
Coughlin, however, said Sjoberg’s past was relevant. “The fact that his [police] career was cut short by a hard-charging chief, just like Chief DeLuca, gives rise to bias.”
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.