Sergeant who filed lawsuit alleging WPD misconduct leaves department

Ella Marx

Sergeant Scott McGowan left the Williamstown Police Department (WPD) on Oct. 31, eight months after the Town placed him on paid leave in response to an employee complaint.

McGowan had alleged last month in a Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) complaint that the Town, in placing him on leave and subsequently moving to fire him, was retaliating against McGowan for his August 2020 lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and racism within the WPD.

McGowan’s attorney David Russcol confirmed to the Record on Tuesday that his client was departing the WPD; The Berkshire Eagle first reported the departure on Monday night, citing two anonymous sources. Russcol also said that McGowan intends to dismiss his MCAD complaint, as “those issues have been resolved to his satisfaction and that of the Town.” Russcol declined to comment on the resolution of the MCAD complaint.

The March 2021 employee complaint that placed McGowan on paid administrative leave alleged that he had bullied other officers and created a hostile work environment. In his MCAD complaint, McGowan alleged that the employee complaint was filed in retaliation against him for reporting department misconduct, including WPD officers’ illegal searches of department critics.

The MCAD complaint also alleged that the Town’s treatment of McGowan after the August 2020 federal lawsuit “contained multiple procedural irregularities and displayed the investigators’ bias against McGowan.”

Former WPD Chief Kyle Johnson and former Town Manager Jason Hoch ’95, who were both named in McGowan’s lawsuit, resigned in December 2020 and February 2021, respectively.

Their departures have left the Town searching for a permanent WPD chief and town manager. Interim WPD Chief Michael Ziemba has been leading the department since May 2021, and the Town is continuing to search for Hoch’s permanent replacement after rejecting both finalists from an initial search.

During his 20 years at the WPD, McGowan had been arrested and disciplined by the department. He was arrested on charges of domestic assault and battery in June 1999, according to a police report obtained by the Eagle. In November 2009, McGowan received a one-day suspension after he pled guilty to negligent motor vehicle operation in Bennington, Vt., the Eagle reported. At the time, his blood alcohol level was 0.065, under the Vermont legal limit of 0.08.

McGowan also appeared in College security reports more than once, according to the Eagle. The Eagle reported that McGowan drove up a walkway at Thompson Chapel at the College late in 1997, and a responding College security officer stated that he smelled alcohol on McGowan’s breath but said “[McGowan] didn’t appear to be under the influence.”

The Eagle also reported that the March employee complaint against McGowan described a separate incident in which a student at the College claimed a man had physically harassed him and spit in his face. McGowan had changed the plate numbers around in the records, the complaint alleged, and had new plates issued to replace the ones that were on the car during the incident. The employee complaint also alleges that Johnson later confirmed that McGowan admitted to assaulting the students and altering police records, according to the Eagle.

Kevin Yang contributed reporting.