Scott E. McGowan (copy)

Williamstown Police Sgt. Scott McGowan poses for a photo in 2017 outside the holding cell in the town’s former police station. Last August, McGowan filed a lawsuit against two top town leaders alleging racial bias and sexual harassment within the police department, an action that shook Williamstown. On March 1 week, he was placed on paid administrative leave after being named in a complaint backed by all of the rank-and-file, full-time members of the police department.

WILLIAMSTOWN — The written complaint that put a Williamstown police sergeant on leave alleges a pattern of bullying behavior and verbal harassment of co-workers within the department.

The complaint against Sgt. Scott E. McGowan was filed by all other rank-and-file members who work full time for the Williamstown Police Department, according to two people interviewed by The Eagle with firsthand knowledge of its contents, who declined to be named. To this point, the public has not known who filed the complaint or what it alleges.

Sgt. Scott E. McGowan was placed on paid administrative leave March 1 by acting Chief Michael Ziemba at the instruction of Jason Hoch, the town manager. Hoch has declined to describe the nature of the complaint.

Select Board member Andrew Hogeland said Monday during the board’s regular meeting that the complaint will be reviewed by the attorney the town has hired to investigate practices within the police department. “That scope of work is going to be bigger than originally contemplated,” Hogeland said.

Jane Patton, the board’s chairwoman, without referring to McGowan by name, said that a police official’s leave continued. “There’s not anything more to add to that,” Patton said. “They are personnel-related matters.”

The complaint, several pages in length, describes actions by McGowan that were viewed as demeaning and disrespectful by others in the department, leaving some of them afraid or reluctant to work with McGowan. The officers contend in the statement that McGowan created a hostile work environment.

The complaint says it represents the views of “all the full-time officers of the Williamstown Police Department.” It does not list officers by name. The statement says the officers have no confidence in McGowan’s ability to perform his assigned duties.

The police department has 11 full-time employees, including McGowan, and Ziemba, the acting chief.

The document does not carry the name of the Williamstown Police Association and is not a position taken by the union, according to people with direct knowledge of it.

The allegation of such behavior comes after McGowan used both a Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination complaint in late 2019 and a federal lawsuit last year to accuse former Chief Kyle Johnson of engaging in a form of sexual harassment more than a decade ago and of failing to respond to what McGowan depicted as instances of racial bias in the police department. Johnson resigned in December after apologizing to the community in November for past failings as a leader and vowed to do better. Hoch, a co-defendant in McGowan’s lawsuit, said in February that he will leave his job in April.

McGowan withdrew his lawsuit following Johnson’s resignation.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.