The head of Newton’s police union is appealing a one-day suspension he says he received in April after he complained to Mayor Setti Warren and the city’s aldermen about conditions in the Police Department and relayed internal information about another department employee.
John Daly, the head of the Newton Police Association, has asked the state Department of Labor to intervene, said Melissa Hurley Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the union. An initial meeting is set for September.
The dispute is the latest incident to surface regarding a souring relationship between the union and management under Police Chief Matthew Cummings.
Mayor Setti Warren declined to comment on the circumstances around Daly’s suspension by the Police Department, but said that it had nothing do with his meeting with the union president.
But the mayor said he has been accessible to city employees, and they should not be worried about speaking to him if they have concerns.
The suspension is ‘retaliation for my bringing to your attention the myriad of problems.’
‘I gather from other police officers . . . there is no widespread problem of low morale.’
“I have a policy of listening to residents throughout the city and employees throughout the city,” Warren said. “I welcome employees who would like to raise issues with me.”
The events began to unfold in late February. Daly met with the mayor and sent a series of e-mails to the Board of Aldermen raising concerns about the Police Department under Cummings. Daly questioned why only management was allowed access to the GPS tracking capabilities in police cars, and suggested that the department was slow to order bullet-proof vests.
Daly also complained that the chief conducted a too-quick investigation into a report that an employee in his office had been detained by Natick police. The employee, Vincent Nguyen, was stopped after being accused of attempting to steal expensive meats from a grocery store by using false bar codes, according to letters sent to the city and e-mails describing the alleged incident.
Nguyen, who has declined to comment, was never charged with a crime and remains employed by the city. Daly, who has been the union president for more than 2½ years, also declined to comment.
Cummings was unavailable for comment Friday, but in a letter to Daly in March he said thatthe safety of police officers is his primary concern. He wrote that the bullet-proof vests were on their way, and that the purpose of the city’s GPS tracking technology was to inform supervisors and dispatchers where officers were, so they could deploy resources properly.
Cummings also defended his handling of internal personnel investigations, and dismissed concerns of low morale on the police force.
“The information I gather from other police officers and commanders is that there is no widespread problem of low morale, and all officers continue to do an exceptional job,” Cummings wrote.
At issue in Daly’s suspension is the dissemination of information about the Nguyen incident, according to the union spokeswoman. Somebody slipped a report of what Natick police officials told Newton police under the door of Daly’s union office, Hurley Sullivan said.
Because Nguyen had access to workers’ personal information, Daly passed it to Warren and the union’s attorney, Hurley Sullivan said.
Generally, it is inappropriate to provide information to anybody not directly involved in a case until an investigation is complete, said Dolores Hamilton, the city’s human resources director.
In his letter to the Board of Aldermen, Daly wrote that he thought the disciplinary action underway against him was “a direct act of retaliation for my bringing to your attention the myriad of problems that currently exist within the Newton Police Department.”
Newton officials declined to speak specifically about any personnel decisions. “The city’s policy is very strict on retaliation and we take those concerns seriously,” said Hamilton.
Nguyen is also involved in a second case in the chief’s office.
Nguyen is the main witness to the alleged theft of $660 by the chief’s secretary, Jeanne Sweeney Mooney. She was placed on paid administrative leave in September after the Police Department accused her of taking an envelope containing cash collected through various police permit fees.
Newton police are seeking to charge Mooney with larceny over $250. A hearing is scheduled next month in Framingham District Court, where a clerk-magistrate will decide whether to go forward with the case.
Mooney has denied that she took the money, and sent a letter to the city demanding $600,000 in damages, reinstatement of her job, and that Cummings be fired. The chief, for his part, says he acted appropriately.
The city recently hired an investigator to look into the dispute. between Mooney and the chief.