Dewey faces lawsuit from former seasonal officer

Claims actions taken will prevent him from future police work
February 10, 2015

A former seasonal police officer for Dewey Beach has filed a defamation lawsuit against another Dewey officer and two officers from the Dover Police Department.

Evan Gillespie says Dewey Beach Police Lt. William Hocker provided false information to the Delaware State Police and Dover Police Department regarding Gillespie's work while at Dewey Beach.

The suit was filed Jan. 20 in U.S. District Court of Delaware and claims the false information led to Gillespie's firing from the Dover Police Department.

The lawsuit continues by alleging that Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat and Dover Police Sgt. Kevin Kober violated Gillespie's due process rights, accused Gillespie of lying about his work in Dewey and then included those comments in Gillespie's personnel file.

Daniel Herr, of the Dagsboro-based Norman Law Firm, is representing Gillespie. He said Gillespie is seeking all lost past, present and future wages, benefits and earning power.

Herr said honesty is a characteristic that holds a lot of weight in the world of police, and those comments from Bernat and Kober in his personnel file are going to be a black mark on Gillespie's work record.

“For a young man in his early 20s who wants to become a police officer, that's a huge obstacle he must now face,” Herr said.

Marc Appelbaum, Dewey Beach town manager, said Jan. 31 that he was notified of the lawsuit by Hocker via email Jan. 29. He said he had no comment on the suit, other than it had been forwarded on to the town's insurance agency.

Dewey Police Sgt. Cliff Dempsey and Dover Police Cpl. Mark Hoffman said Feb. 2 that they were aware of the lawsuit, but declined to comment because it was a personnel issue.

Gillespie worked as a seasonal officer for the Milford Police Department during the summers of 2010 and 2011. He joined the Dewey Beach Police Department's seasonal staff in the summer of 2012.

Gillespie worked as a seasonal officer for Dewey for three summers. In 2013, he was promoted to assistant supervisor of Dewey's seasonal officers. In 2014, he was again promoted, this time to supervisor. He was offered a job for the Dover Police Department around Aug. 6 and was told he would begin the Delaware State Police Academy Sept. 8.

According to the lawsuit, Hocker lied to at least one officer from Delaware State Police about Gillespie's tenure in Dewey Beach. The suit claims Hocker told the officer that Gillespie left work with the department early, left his fellow officers hanging, didn't return his police badge, didn't complete all his work and didn't follow the chain of command when resigning.

Gillespie claims to have worked for Dewey until Aug. 20, returning to the police station at least three times to make sure all of his tasks were completed.

The suit says the last time Gillespie checked on the status of his work was Sept. 7, the day before the academy started. Gillespie was told by Dewey Beach Cpl. Brooks Jenney that all of his work was completed, the suit states. It also says that Gillespie told Jenney to call if there was anything further that needed to be done; no one from the department ever called.

The lawsuit claims Hocker knew that the false information he gave a state police officer would cause Gillespie to be targeted and then terminated.

Bernat and Kober are accused of not allowing Gillespie to clear his name of false accusations and then memorializing those false accusations in a letter for his personnel file, said Herr.

Herr said the case is in a holding pattern until the officers file an official response to the lawsuit, which, he said, he expected to happen in the next two weeks.