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Retired officer in Hull sues chief

Contends officers stole union funds

A recently retired Hull police officer has sued the town’s police chief and several other high-ranking officers, saying they embezzled union funds and charitable contributions for meals in expensive restaurants and drink tabs at bars and adult entertainment clubs.

In the complaint, Richard McKenna, who retired in December after 28 years on the force, said he filed the suit after he did not receive supplemental retirement benefits owed to him by the union. The union president, Scott Saunders, later told him that $130,000 was missing from the fund, which was virtually empty, and there were no financial records, according to the suit.

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The civil suit, filed on behalf of all union members to recover the allegedly lost funds, includes testimony from Saunders saying he contacted the state attorney general’s office in December about the missing money. The attorney general’s office would not confirm or deny that it is investigating the matter.

Police Chief Richard Billings said Monday that he had not been a union member since 2004, when he became chief, and has had nothing to do with the union’s finances since then. He was aware that Saunders had reported the missing money to authorities and said he was eager to learn the outcome of any investigation.

“I’m as anxious to find out as anyone,” he said.

Billings declined to comment on the allegations that he misused union funds, but said he was surprised that McKenna had brought the claim.

“I have no idea why this lawsuit exists,” he said.

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The complaint is one of several filed against Hull officers in recent years.

In 2011, a female officer filed a harassment suit against Billings and two officers, saying they frequently demeaned her with sexist slurs and displayed “outrageously misogynistic conduct” toward female employees.

In 2012, the same officer filed a whistle-blower complaint, accusing police officials of misusing a federal grant and docking her pay when she refused to falsify records. Both cases are ongoing.

Half of all union dues is deposited into the fund, along with outside donations for police officers’ death and retirement benefits. Those payments are now in doubt, the complaint alleges.

“The loss of all funds in the treasury means that other retiring officers, like the plaintiff, will lose earned supplemental retirement benefits to which they are entitled,” the complaint states. “Money which all members helped to raise through the charitable contributions of Hull citizens . . . is also apparently lost.”

Outside donations were made through charitable events such as golf tournaments, policeman’s balls, and direct solicitations.

James Brady, a Hingham lawyer who represents McKenna and represented the officer in the harassment suit, declined to comment.

The six defendants named in the suit, including Billings and four other current officers, did not respond to messages seeking comment. The officers served as union leaders at various times since 2000, the last accounting of the fund.

At that time, the union had $94,000 on hand, according to the complaint. But since then, no financial statements have been issued.

McKenna asserted that he repeatedly asked union leaders for his retirement benefits, but they “evaded his questions for weeks.” Saunders eventually told him the fund was empty and could not provide an explanation, according to the suit.

The complaint alleges that Billings and a former union president authorized the transfer of money from the nonprofit groups into the union fund, then issued credit cards on the union’s account to several officers. `

While visiting Washington, D.C., for National Police Week, officers used the cards to pay for meals in expensive restaurants and tabs at bars and adult entertainment clubs “they frequented for several nights on each of several trips,” according to the complaint.

Billings and two other officers used union credit cards to buy tickets to Boston Bruins hockey games and other athletic events, the suit says. Another officer used the cards to pay for a set of tires for his wife’s car, it alleges.

The complaint also asserts that the union treasurer wrote checks payable to himself .

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.

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