Retired policeman and whistleblower John Connors. Photo: Union Leader/Rich Beauchesne
John Connors, the veteran Portsmouth, NH, police officer who blew the whistle on suspected elder abuse in his neighborhood, is pursuing legal action against senior police officials who reportedly looked the other way. Filing at the federal level in New Hampshire District Court, Connors is suing Police Chief Stephen DuBois, Police Commission Chairman John F. Golumb, police commissioner Gerald Howe and the city of New Hampshire for civil rights violations.
Connors was next-door neighbor to Geraldine Webber, who passed away in 2012 at age 94. In the two years before her death, Connors noticed that Webber began to receive frequent visits from another younger officer, Sgt. Aaron Goodwin. Webber, who had been diagnosed with dementia in 2009, told her neighbor that she was in love with Goodwin and would marry him. The elderly woman was clearly in no condition to make rational decisions, yet she also decided to hand over the bulk of her $2.7 million estate, including her house as well as stocks and bonds, to the young officer. Goodwin, meanwhile, seemingly only played to Webber's delusions, not only taking her out for occasional casino trips, but also shopping around for a lawyer who would agree to designate him the new prime beneficiary of her will.
When Connors reported his suspicions of elder financial abuse to his superiors, he was effectively given the cold shoulder. Moreover, in a conversation with Commissioner John Russo, also a neighbor, Connors was told that "Webber had plenty of money and if Goodwin could get some of it and get away with it, 'Good for him.'" After Webber had died in 2012, Goodwin's control of the estate was challenged in probate court, yet the Portsmouth Police were still silent. Finding no support for corrective action among the police brass, Connors eventually voiced his concerns to the press in August of last year. Just two days later, he was hit with an administrative gag order and told he could only speak publicly with the persmission of department chief Stephen DuBois.
Now Goodwin has been fired, and Webber's estate is still locked in probate litigation. Connors, meanwhile, was punished for refusing to stand by and "watch crime being committed." It's a sad fact that whistleblowers are often subject to persecution for trying to expose dirty dealings and right wrongs. Officer Connors and all those who stand against elder abuse deserve our respect and support; with his example in mind, we should all work to ensure that vulnerable senior citizens are safe from exploitation and undue influence.