South Hadley Town Meeting to be asked to fund police officer’s $160,000 wrongful termination claim

By Jim Russell | MassLive

SOUTH HADLEY — Next month’s annual town meeting includes a $160,000 request to fund a claim resulting from the wrongful termination of a police officer.

The matter involves South Hadley police officer Mark Sowell.

According to court records, he was fired by the town, but an arbitrator determined in October 2010 that Sowell was wrongly terminated.

South Hadley officials at the time provided four reasons for the firing of Sowell — but none could be justified, according to the arbitrator, James Litton.

Records show Sowell was fired in 2009 — then reinstated in 2013, when the court, over objections of the town, approved the arbitrator’s decision.

Litton’s decision said the four complaints the town brought against Sowell, such as allegedly overcharging for a handgun permit were not substantiated, and a lack of timeliness in pursuing those allegation constituted “a piling on of charges, if not bad faith.”

International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 375, initiated legal action on Sowell’s behalf.

The police officers union filed a complaint at Suffolk Superior Court, and also a contempt charge against the town for refusing to refund what they said were $222,870 in back wages owed.

According to the complaint, interest on the amount had been accruing at $625 per week.

Sowell has been represented by lawyer, Andrew J. Gambaccini of the Worcester firm Reardon, Joyce & Akerson, P.C.

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