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Newton police captain cleared; new case aired

A report released Friday cleared a Newton police captain of making offensive remarks to a female ­officer. But questions about police behavior in Newton are persisting, as an assault by an off-duty officer after a party in 2010 has come to light for the first time.

After a three-month investigation involving interviews with 15 Police Department employees, Dan Bair, an attorney hired by the city of Newton, found there was insufficient evidence to suggest that Captain Christopher Marzilli made gender-based or sexually related comments to Officer Dina MacNair.

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MacNair sent the city a demand letter in October alleging that Marzilli had made numerous inappropriate comments to her about her weight and appearance while she was pregnant and treated her adversely. MacNair had demanded $500,000.

“I’m glad for Captain Marzilli and glad he can move on with his life,” said Alan ­Shapiro, a union attorney for Marzilli.

But MacNair’s attorney, Robert Carp, called the investigation flawed. Recent events that have put the spotlight on the Police Department have made employees reluctant to talk, Carp said.

Carp said MacNair will continue with a state discrimination complaint against the city.

The report on the Marzilli investigation was released a week after the Police Department confirmed that five off-duty officers had egged their supervisor’s house. And last fall, Police Chief Matthew ­Cummings was fired for unbecoming behavior after an investigation alleged that he made inappropriate comments to women in his department, including MacNair.

The officers involved have said they had egged a sergeant's house in Framingham as a friendly prank. The officers have not been identified, but Newton officials said they are being disciplined.

Police and City Hall workers have also been abuzz this past week about an off-duty officer who report­edly shoved a guest at the Police Grand Ball against a pillar in 2010, causing a cut above the victim’s left eye.

According to the report, the assault occurred Dec. 4 just before 1 a.m. at the Marriott ­Hotel on Commonwealth Avenue in Newton, where the ­police had held their annual party and awards ceremony.

Several police officers ­remained at the hotel after the party had wound down. As a guest at the ball tried to catch a cab outside the hotel, “two parties came back outside in an aggressive manner,” and one of the men pushed him against a pillar, according to the police report.

The report does not identify the police officer who pushed the guest.

Howard Mintz, interim ­police chief, said police conducted an internal investigation at the time and found that the officer involved violated department rules. Police officials informed the Middlesex district attorney’s office about the incident and decided to handle the matter internally, said Mintz, who was not chief at the time.

The officer was disciplined at the time and still works for the department, Mintz said.

There has been no evidence to suggest the 2010 assault call was linked to last month’s egging incident, he said. “If we had any evidence that something was being done for retaliation reasons,” Mintz said, “we’d take strong action.”

Donnalyn Kahn, Newton’s solicitor, said the recent news about the Police Department did not affect the report on Marzilli and MacNair.

Most of the independent investigator’s report was finished by the time the officers egged their superior’s house.

“It certainly didn’t play into the willingness of witnesses to speak,” Kahn said. “Sometimes when these decisions come down, the party that made the complaint doesn’t like the ­results.”

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes
@globe.com.
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