fb-pixel Skip to main content

Ex-ADA says Conley fired him in retaliation

Suit contends Suffolk DA tried to force him to campaign in 2013

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

A former Suffolk County prosecutor is suing District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, asserting he was fired for refusing to work on Conley's failed 2013 mayoral bid.

Joseph Pagliarulo, an assistant district attorney from 1992 to 1999 and from 2003 to 2013, said in court documents that Conley's chief of staff, John Towle, and a civilian office investigator, Michael Roberts, used "intimidation and threats" to "coerce Pagliarulo to support and campaign" for their boss and acted at Conley's direction.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court, said Pagliarulo was fired in November 2013 in retaliation for refusing to follow these orders, a violation of state law.


"This is public money and Dan Conley in this case is using it to coerce and compel a district attorney to campaign for a different office — the mayor of Boston," said John McK. Pavlos, Pagliarulo's lawyer. "He's not above the law. Pagliarulo and his family are standing up to him, and they will not be bullied."

Conley spokesman Jake Wark said it was "inaccurate and untrue" that Pagliarulo's firing was politically motivated. He said the lawsuit "represents a work of fiction with no basis in fact, submitted years after his termination. We tried to get him the help he needed. He made a different choice."

In 2002, Pagliarulo campaigned for Conley when he was first elected district attorney, gathering nominating signatures in West Roxbury and Roslindale and volunteering 20 hours a week, according to court papers.

On March 29, 2013, a day after Mayor Thomas M. Menino said he would not seek reelection, Pagliarulo was told "your boss is running for mayor" and he would be expected to help. Pagliarulo said he wasn't getting involved in the mayor's race.

Still, on April 1, Pagliarulo was told to take off work April 30 to collect nominating signatures for Conley.


He refused because he was campaigning for Congressman Stephen Lynch, who was running that day in a special election primary for the US Senate.

Later that morning, Conley, who'd learned Pagliarulo was not helping him, snubbed him when he said "hello" at the district attorney's downtown office, Pagliarulo said.

Shortly thereafter, Roberts, a civilian investigator, called Pagliarulo's office to tell him that Towle, the chief of staff, was "pissed."

"Conley provides your paycheck, not Lynch," Roberts said, according to court documents, adding that it was "expected" that he would work on the Conley campaign. Pagliarulo said he responded that he earned his paycheck as a prosecutor and would not be bullied.

Pagliarulo, in court papers, portrayed himself as an exemplary employee.

In 2003, Conley promoted him to supervising attorney in West Roxbury, where he managed other prosecutors and oversaw some 3,000 cases a year. He received the "Outstanding District Court Prosecutor Award" from the lawyers he supervised, according to Pagliarulo. He received merit raises regularly and earned $77,538, according to state records.

But soon after the conversation with Roberts, Pagliarulo said, executive staff began to question his case management and threatened to have him "taken out of West Roxbury court."

In May 2013, Towle ordered Pagliarulo to take an unpaid, involuntary leave for a mental health evaluation. Pagliarulo said it was "embarrassing" and after three days he returned to work after a doctor cleared him.

Pagliarulo also describes a visit he received that May at the West Roxbury court from a Conley nephew, identified by the initials B.P. The nephew said Pagliarulo's campaign work for Conley had been valuable in 2002. Pagliarulo said he wanted to be judged by his performance, and not as "a political 'hack.' " According to the suit, the nephew responded:


"It's better to be a hack than to be on the bread line."

On Sept. 4, Conley failed to make the Boston mayoral runoff, finishing fourth in a preliminary election. On Nov. 19, Pagliarulo was fired. Towle told him they wanted "more dynamic leadership in West Roxbury and Dan supports the decision," according to court documents.

Pagliarulo said a "severance agreement" was withdrawn after he asked to show it to a lawyer. He said he has yet to be paid for unused vacation and personal days. Wark said Pagliarulo has received the pay to which he's entitled.

Conley is facing another workplace lawsuit from a former employee. Christina Corda, an assistant district attorney in the gang unit for seven years, filed a wage discrimination lawsuit in US District Court in Boston. Wark said they are unrelated, but noted that Pagliarulo's decision to file his suit after this one was "telling."

Pavlos said the family needed time to "come to grips" with Pagliarulo's termination, obtain financial stability, and decide to sue.

Pagliarulo is suing for wages, benefits, and pension time lost since his firing.