A former Newton police secretary filed a federal complaint Friday against the city, contending that the mayor and several Police Department employees violated her privacy rights and illegally retaliated against her for speaking out.
In the complaint filed in US District Court, Jeanne Sweeney Mooney said that she was set up on a larceny charge after she started complaining in 2010 about former police chief Matthew Cummings. Mooney was placed on paid administrative leave by the city in September 2011.
Mooney informed the city last May that she intended to file suit, sparking an internal investigation that eventually led Mayor Setti Warren to fire Cummings.
“Everyone knew this was coming,” said John Tocci, Mooney’s lawyer. “We waited as long as we could. And it makes no sense to wait any longer.”
Mooney is awaiting trial on a charge of larceny over $250. She is accused of taking an envelope containing cash that the department collected through various police permit fees and of destroying nearly $1,500 in checks and a schedule of payments.
Mooney has pleaded not guilty.
Newton Solicitor Donnalyn Kahn said Friday that she had not seen the federal lawsuit yet, but that if the complaints are similar to what Mooney has claimed previously, “we’re going to defend against it.”
In the federal court filings, Mooney said that Cummings, Lieutenant Edward Aucoin, the department’s internal affairs investigator, and Vincent Nguyen, a co-worker in the chief’s office, falsely accused her of stealing.
According to the suit, Mooney had complained that the chief had asked her to do additional work without negotiating with the union, and she had questioned a bonus he received.
The city then pursued criminal charges against her after she filed a demand letter for $600,000 in damages in May 2012, the court documents state.
Mooney was at the center of a shake-up at the Police Department last year. The city hired an outside investigator to look into Mooney’s complaints against Cummings that were outlined in her demand letter.
The investigator concluded that Cummings had acted boorishly to Mooney and two other female employees in attempts to be funny. Mayor Setti Warren fired Cummings in October. Nguyen now works at another department in the city.
The city is in the midst of trying to hire a new police chief.