Westbrook School Committee member Suzanne Joyce has notified the city that she intends to file a lawsuit claiming she was wrongfully charged with hindering a criminal case against a school employee.

Joyce was charged last year with hindering the apprehension or prosecution of Dereck Gilman, who was a special-education technician at Westbrook Middle School before he was accused of engaging in sexual acts with a 17-year-old student.

Charges against Joyce were dismissed in September. Charges against Gilman also were dismissed last fall, as part of a plea agreement.

In a notice of claim sent to the city on Feb. 25, Joyce’s attorney, Gary Goldberg, said Joyce intends to bring action against the city and Westbrook Police Officer Ryan Close, who investigated Gilman. A notice of claim is a first legal step toward a lawsuit against a city or town.

City officials released a statement Monday saying they are confident that the matter will be resolved in favor of the city and the police department.

“This is yet another unfortunate twist in a tragic tale that has a member of our school committee casting a long shadow over the schools and now calling the integrity of one of our fine officers and our superb police agency into question,” said Assistant City Administrator William Baker in the statement.


During his investigation, Close provided information to the district attorney alleging that witnesses said Joyce had intimidated or otherwise caused them to become uncooperative with the investigation, according to the claim. As a result, Joyce was indicted by a grand jury.

Before the charges were dismissed, Joyce was accused of obstructing Gilman’s prosecution by having contact with another special-education teacher before Gilman resigned.

The notice of claim alleges that Close acted without probable cause and with malice when he pursued criminal action against Joyce.

“Officer Close knew, or should have known, that these statements and allegations that Suzanne Joyce had hindered the prosecution or apprehension of Dereck Gilman were false,” Goldberg wrote.

Joyce is seeking $400,000 in damages.

“As a consequence of the wrongful indictment and prosecution, Suzanne Joyce has sustained damages to her reputation in the community, emotional distress and pecuniary loss including, but not limited to, loss of business and business opportunities and the cost of legal fees associated with defense against the criminal charges,” Goldberg wrote in the claim.


Baker, the Westbrook official, said it was the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office that sought an indictment against Joyce.

“We are confident that both the police and the DA’s office acted in accordance with the evidence and the law,” Baker said. “Dismissals of grand jury indictments happen often as witnesses change their stories or victims of crime recant under duress, neither of which is a reflection on the innocence of the person indicted by a jury of their peers.”

Baker said the city is looking forward to settling the issue in court.

“The decision to file a lawsuit strikes us as a poor choice by the plaintiff for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the discovery tools in this civil process will most certainly shed light on the motive and behavior of the plaintiff and will clear up many questions about the case, which in the context of the criminal case have gone unanswered,” Baker said.

Baker said city officials will have no further comment on the lawsuit.

Gilman, who no longer works for the school district, was indicted on charges of unlawful sexual touching and sexual abuse of a child. He was accused of engaging in sexual acts with a 17-year-old student from May 1, 2012, to Jan. 30, 2013, while he worked for the district.

Prosecutors dismissed the charges last fall as part of a plea agreement that required him to pay a $35 fee.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:ggraham@pressherald.comTwitter: grahamgilliangrahamgillian

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