A Hingham police officer has been reinstated three years after being terminated for an alleged assault on a town employee.
According to a Civil Service Commission report, Kris Phillips was a 22-year veteran of the Hingham Police Department when he got into a confrontation with a Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant employee in April 2008.
The crews were working in the vicinity of the 99 restaurant on Lincoln Street, with Phillips and Michael Peraino - at the time a lieutenant - providing traffic control. At around 11 a.m., someone came up and started taking pictures.
According to the report, a utility company employee said Phillips must be a movie star, as the only time anyone had taken pictures was when the officer was on duty for traffic control.
After hearing the employee’s comments, Phillips turned around, threw his hands out to the side, and allegedly hit the employee in the groin, the report said.
The report said Peraino, who is now Hingham’s police chief, saw the altercation and watched as the employee doubled over in pain.
Although neither party filed a report, the police chief at the time, Taylor Mills, started an independent criminal investigation about the incident upon learning what had occurred.
Phillips was eventually placed under investigation by the department, and by December, the Board of Selectmen issued a notice for a hearing about the matter and voted unanimously in January 2009 to terminate Phillips from his position.
Phillips took the case to the Civil Service Commission, which upheld the town’s ruling, but stated that the punishment may have outweighed the crime. The case subsequently went to the Plymouth District Attorney’s Office, but in the review process, the utility employee refused to testify about the incident.
“He was the principal testifier at Phillips’s original hearing,’’ said Selectman Bruce Rabuffo. “Then there were a bunch of other factors that came in that caused us to reconsider his case. And that’s what we did.’’
As a result, the Board of Selectmen recently reviewed the case and decided this month to reinstate Phillips as a sergeant to full employment in his previous administrative position.
Phillips could not be reached for comment. According to a release by Hingham officials, “Phillips contritely acknowledged he had acted inappropriately and thanked the Town and fellow police officers for their consideration.’’
Peraino would not comment on the particulars of the case, but said Phillips “did start here on Monday, and we as a department are moving forward.’’
Rabuffo expressed the same resolve.
“I would say any time you have an opportunity to revisit a decision of this consequence and come out with a different conclusion,’’ it’s a good thing, Rabuffo said. “It was in his best interest and the town’s. It turned out for the best - I’m just sorry it took so long.’’
According to Town Administrator Ted Alexiades, Hingham has had few terminations in his tenure, and even fewer terminations that were reversed.
After going through the hearing process, however, it was clear that in this instance the punishment may have been excessive, he said.
“The civil service decision upheld the decision of the town to terminate Mr. Phillips. However, it also indicated that they felt a lesser penalty would have been in order. Generally speaking in law enforcement, there are two types of penalties on the serious end, termination, and suspension without pay,’’ Alexiades said. “Mr. Phillips was essentially suspended without pay for almost a three-year period. I don’t think there’s a position in the Commonwealth where someone has received that type of penalty.’’
Officials wouldn’t comment on whether Phillips might harbor any ill will upon returning to the department.
“My understanding,’’ said Alexiades, “is Mr. Phillips is glad to be back to work.’’