‘Whistleblower’ Portsmouth cop should be honored, assistant mayor says (NH)

PORTSMOUTH — Assistant Mayor Jim Splaine is proposing a whistleblower-protection ordinance, in recognition of police officer John Connors, who was punished by police officials for giving an interview about a fellow officer’s disputed $2.7 million inheritance.

Splaine said he’ll propose the ordinance during the June 15 City Council meeting.

“Longtime police officer John Connors should, in my opinion, be nominated for a ‘Portsmouth Profiles In Courage’ award if there was one,” Splaine said. “He demonstrated ‘Good Citizenship 101′ by speaking out about what he saw as wrongdoing several years ago. It took a while for the community to catch up to his voice in the wilderness.”

Connors gave the interview to the Portsmouth Herald last year when he said he saw Goodwin visit his elderly neighbor, the late Geraldine Webber, dozens of times while Webber had dementia, was saying she was “in love with” the much-younger Goodwin and wanted to give him her house. Connors said he thought he was “watching a crime” and last week an independent panel, led by retired Judge Stephen Roberts, published a report saying Goodwin violated three sections of the police Duty Manual and three parts of the city’s Code of Ethics.

The ethics violations can be punished criminally, by order of the City Council.

In response to his interview, Connors was served with a notice of complaint by the Police Department accusing him of insubordination and malfeasance, as well as of violating the police department’s media policy.

Splaine said Connors came forward “at considerable personal risk and then was gagged by Police Department leadership.”

“He is owed our thanks and an apology,” Splaine said. “I want to see other municipal employees who are willing to stand up and speak out protected from future gag orders and be welcomed to let the public know if they are aware of problems in our city government.”

Goodwin is accused in the Strafford County probate court of exerting undue influence over Webber, while she was impaired by dementia, as he helped her change her will and trust to his benefit. Goodwin’s disputed inheritance diminished inheritances to two medical charities and the Portsmouth police and fire departments, which were previously named as to receive about one-quarter each of Webber’s large estate.

Goodwin denies the allegations and said he helped and befriended Webber. Last month, during a hearing for the probate court dispute, Goodwin said he never told his elderly benefactor that he couldn’t accept her house, car, stocks and bonds because he’s a police officer.

Instead, Goodwin testified, “My long stance with her was to just do whatever makes her happy.”

Attribution:

‘Whistleblower’ Portsmouth cop should be honored, assistant mayor says
Assistant mayor wants law to protect employees who speak out from punishment
Elizabeth Dinan
June 8, 2015
SeaCoastOnline.com
http://www.seacoastonline.com/article/20150608/NEWS/150609204

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