A lawsuit filed in Chittenden County Superior Court has the county's elected head prosecutor, T.J. Donovan, on the defense.
The suit filed by South Burlington police officer Jack O'Connor claims Donovan spread rumors and innuendos about O'Connor trying to ruin his reputation, and that Donovan used foul and unprofessional language toward him. O'Connor alleges Donovan threatened to run the officer out of Chittenden County.
T.J. Donovan counters, "This lawsuit is completely without merit."
O'Connor also claims Donovan's campaign against him has stymied promotions and the raises that come with them, and says he's the victim of severe emotional distress. He wants the Court to award him money for that distress, and is asking that Donovan stop what he calls "interference" with his career.
Donovan denies having a vendetta against O'Connor. "There are times that police and prosecutors have disagreements," he says.
Asked if there are other strained relationships that may impact his ability to prosecute cases, Donovan answers, "I don't think so." He continues, "I think over the 3-plus years I've been here, we've done an excellent job working with law enforcement protecting this community and keeping this community a safe and vibrant one for everybody in Chittenden County."
The accuser, Jack O'Connor, has himself faced past accusations. In 2005, the Reverend Rico Diamond claimed racial profiling when O'Connor seized more than $5,000 in church money he thought came from a drug deal. A jury later cleared O'Connor of racism charges.
In his new lawsuit against T.J. Donovan, O'Connor described his own work, saying he has done excellent work as a police officer and that he always strives to reduce drug dealing in South Burlington.
"I just look forward to resolving this issue in Superior Court," Donovan says.
Jack O'Connor's boss, South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple, calls this a private issue between two men. Whipple would not comment on O'Connor's claims that Donovan has campaigned against the officer, saying he never comments on personnel matters. Incidentally, Chief Whipple says he has had a professional working relationship with T.J. Donovan.
We called Officer O'Connor's lawyer Monday afternoon. He did not return our calls before our deadline for Monday's 6:00 PM news. But in the lawsuit, O'Connor says T.J. Donovan has known the officer's drug investigation work since Donovan was in private practice defending drug cases, and suggests that's where their relationship soured. It may have gotten worse when Donovan testified against O'Connor in the Rico Diamond case.
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