FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS Hon. Judith G. Dein, U.S. Magistrate Judge
P. Gianoulis, with whom John F. Tocci was on brief, for
Simms, with whom John J. Cloherty III was on brief, for
Lynch, Stahl, and Lipez, Circuit Judges.
appeal arises out of an alleged conspiracy to terminate
plaintiff-appellant Mark Thomas from his position as an
officer at the Salisbury Police Department ("SPD").
In 2010, Cornelius Harrington, the Salisbury town manager,
hired Robert St. Pierre to investigate allegations of
misconduct by the then-police chief, David L'Esperance.
During the investigation, St. Pierre also uncovered evidence
of alleged wrongdoing by Thomas, resulting in a follow-up
investigation. Harrington terminated Thomas from his
employment based on that second investigation, but an
arbitrator later reversed that decision. Nevertheless, Thomas
retired soon after and alleged, inter alia, that
Harrington and St. Pierre conspired against him. He further
alleged that Harrington violated the Massachusetts Civil
Rights Act ("MCRA"), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12
§§ 11H, 11I, by depriving him of a protected
property right -- namely, his continued employment with the
has offered little evidence beyond bald speculation for the
existence of a conspiracy. Moreover, he has not shown that
his constitutional rights were interfered with by
"threats, intimidation, or coercion," as required
by the MCRA. Accordingly, and for the following reasons, we
affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment.
I. Factual Background
April 2006, Harrington hired David L'Esperance as
Salisbury's new police chief. Soon after L'Esperance
was hired, he promoted Thomas to detective and eventually
designated him as Chief of Detectives,  decisions which
Thomas allege created substantial jealousy among other SPD
autumn 2010, two SPD officers made allegations of misconduct
against L'Esperance. The allegations reached Harrington
who, on advice of counsel, placed L'Esperance on
administrative leave. Harrington then reached out to St.
Pierre, a retired former Chief of Police in Salem,
Massachusetts, and set up a meeting to discuss the
allegations. After this discussion, on December 9,
2010, St. Pierre entered into a "Professional Services
Agreement" with Salisbury to investigate the allegations
against L'Esperance. Harrington did not obtain permission
from the town's Board of Selectmen prior to soliciting
St. Pierre's services, nor did the Board initially
approve the contract. However, Harrington was not required to
first obtain the permission of the Board of Selectmen before
hiring an outside consultant on behalf of the town, and no
member of the Board voiced an objection to Harrington's
decision to retain St. Pierre's services.
the investigation concluded, however, L'Esperance
resigned from active duty with the SPD. Thereafter, on
January 24, 2011, St. Pierre tendered his investigative
report to Harrington, which concluded that L'Esperance
had violated numerous SPD rules. As relevant here, the report
also disclosed allegations of misconduct against Thomas.
Among those allegations were that Thomas (1) studied for the
bar exam while on the job; (2) observed but failed to report
L'Esperance pilfering evidence at crime scenes; and (3)
fabricated portions of his resume for submission to the FBI
in connection with his application to attend a FBI training
Board of Selectmen held a meeting on January 24, 2011, at
which the Board asked Harrington to contact St. Pierre to
further investigate "loose ends" from the
L'Esperance report, including the allegations against
Thomas. The Board confirmed that request during a February
24, 2011 public meeting. At the end of that meeting, Thomas
requested that SPD internal affairs conduct the investigation
into him instead, but this request was denied.
to the Board of Selectmen's instruction, Harrington once
again reached out to St. Pierre and asked that he conduct the
investigation into Thomas. St. Pierre initially replied that,
because Thomas was not a "ranking officer," the SPD
could conduct the investigation internally. However, St.
Pierre eventually acceded to the request and entered into
another Professional Services Agreement on February 28, 2011.
The then-acting SPD chief, Kevin Sullivan, requested that
Detective Steven Sforza be permitted to help with the
investigation. On May 24, 2011, Sullivan's successor as
acting SPD chief, Richard Merrill, placed Thomas on paid
administrative leave during the pendency of the
the investigation into Thomas, St. Pierre interviewed several
municipal and SPD employees. One SPD officer, Daniel McNeil,
testified that during his recorded interview, St. Pierre
turned off the tape recorder and said something to the effect
of "[this] is not where I'm going with this or what
I'm looking for." McNeil understood this comment to
mean that he was "being obviously directed" by St.
Pierre to give negative information about Thomas.
separately contends that, during the L'Esperance
investigation, Sforza illegally taped a conversation with him
while at the SPD station in December 2010. This allegation
came to light while Sforza was assisting with the Thomas
investigation and, although Sforza denied the claim,
was removed from the Thomas investigation thereafter. Despite
that removal, Thomas alleges that Sforza continued
communicating with St. Pierre, a claim that appellees deny.
their respective depositions, Harrington and St. Pierre
testified that Harrington's role in the Thomas
investigation was limited. For example, both testified that
Harrington did not provide St. Pierre with questions to ask
witnesses or tell St. Pierre or Sforza whom to interview. In
addition, Harrington was never given a copy of St.
Pierre's investigatory notes. Appellees claim that
Harrington also did not give St. Pierre advice on what
"issues [St. Pierre] should investigate." Thomas
disputes that claim, pointing to several communications
between Harrington, St. Pierre, and town counsel relating to
the investigation. Although those communications largely
summarized the progress of St. Pierre's investigation, in
one email concerning Thomas's prior disciplinary history,
town counsel stated "[Thomas] may have just shot himself
in the foot."
August 1, 2011, St. Pierre delivered a draft copy of his
investigative report to Harrington. Harrington made several
changes to the report, and submitted it to the Board of
Selectmen on September 28, 2011. That same day, Harrington
sent a letter to Thomas notifying him that a disciplinary
hearing would be held regarding the contents of the report.
In addition, in response to a Freedom of Information Act
("FOIA") request, Harrington forwarded a copy of
the report to a reporter with the Newburyport Daily News, a
local newspaper. The report was published the following
day. A copy was also anonymously forwarded to the
Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, an action Thomas
attributes to Harrington.
disciplinary hearing was held on December 15, 2011, during
which no witnesses testified, and the town simply entered St.
Pierre's report into the record. Harrington issued a
decision on February 8, 2012, upholding two of the four
charges against Thomas and dismissing the other two.
Specifically, Harrington found that Thomas had (1) studied
for the bar exam while on duty; and (2) falsified his resume
in the application to the FBI. He then terminated
Thomas's employment with Salisbury. However, on October
31, 2012, an arbitrator reversed the decision, finding that
there was insufficient evidence ...