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Appeals Court clears way for Acting Mayor Janey to fire Boston police commissioner

Police Commissioner Dennis White.
Police Commissioner Dennis White.Suffolk Superior Court

A Massachusetts court has denied Boston Police Commissioner Dennis White’s appeal of a ruling that would have cleared the way for his firing, meaning that Acting Mayor Kim Janey is now free to proceed with a hearing to terminate the city’s embattled top cop.

The ruling was the latest in a series of dizzying twists in the ongoing legal drama.

On Tuesday, a Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled that Janey was free to move forward with her plan to remove White from his post. Less than 24 hours later, the saga took another turn, when the same judge granted a stay that put White’s ouster on hold, while he appealed to the state’s Appeals Court.

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In a statement Thursday, Janey said she “will immediately move forward to schedule a hearing with Dennis White.” She did not give a date.

“It is time to move the Boston Police Department in a new direction toward our vision of safety, healing, and justice,” she said.

White’s attorney, Nicholas B. Carter, said his client respects the court’s ruling.

“He now reaffirms his requests to Acting Mayor Janey in his letter to the City on May 25,” Carter said in a statement. “He asks for a copy of the investigator’s file, including at minimum the identity of who is making these false allegations against him and what their source of information is.”

White also wants a copy of his and his former wife’s internal affairs files and for the hearing to be public. He wants to be given the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses who will testify that he is innocent, according to Carter. The attorney reiterated there is no cause to remove him from the commissioner’s post.

“He asks that the hearing take place at a mutually convenient time for all parties and that the Acting Mayor keep an open mind and allow him to present his case,” Carter said.

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An order from Appeals Court Judge Vickie Henry on Thursday stated: “After review of the petition and supporting documents including the Superior Court judge’s thoughtful and detailed memorandum of decision, and order, I discern no error of law or abuse of discretion in the denial of the preliminary injunction.”

Janey recently signaled, before White’s removal was effectively paused for his appeal, that she intended to move to terminate him as police commissioner.

Her effort to do so came after the release earlier this month of a report detailing decades-old domestic violence allegations against White, who was never charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

White was placed on leave in February, two days after he was sworn in, following questions about the allegations. After Janey moved to oust him, White sought a restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop his removal.

That thwarted Janey temporarily. Last week, Superior Court Judge Heidi Brieger denied his request for a preliminary injunction. White then appealed, but Henry, the appeals court judge, found Thursday that there was “little likelihood of success in the commissioner’s claim that he was deprived of due process.”

White’s attorneys had argued that the Superior Court must hold an evidentiary hearing prior to his removal, but Henry stated, “I agree with the motion judge’s determination that the hearing required before a removal decision is properly held before the appointing authority, not the Superior Court.”

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The legal standoff brought more uncertainty and controversy to the police force, which has been buffeted by scandal in recent months.

Results of an independent investigation, released earlier this month, detailed an alleged pattern of domestic abuse by White and a culture of fear and coverup within the Police Department.

White was accused in 1999 of striking and threatening to shoot his then-wife, also a Boston police officer, as well as of hitting a 19-year-old woman in a separate incident in 1993.

The White case has become a significant political issue in Boston, with all six major mayoral candidates saying that White could not continue as police commissioner.

Additionally, former police commissioner William Gross, who is White’s friend and predecessor as the department’s leader, said in an explosive court filing last week that former mayor Martin J. Walsh knew about White’s internal affairs history before he appointed him to lead the force.

That directly contradicted Walsh, who has insisted since February that he did not know about the accusations detailed in the commissioner’s internal aff airs history. Walsh has since repeated that he did not know of the accusations, and his account was backed up by another former police commissioner, William Evans.



Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.