A former Newton police chief filed a lawsuit against the city in federal court Tuesday alleging that officials did not have substantial evidence when they fired him in 2011, according to court documents.
Matthew Cummings, who served as the police chief of the Newton department from 2009-2011, was fired after he allegedly kicked and repeatedly swore at police secretary Jeanne Sweeney Mooney, and called a pregnant police officer “fat.”
His contract, which was submitted as part of the suit, states that the city may terminate Cummings for cause after a hearing. His contract states that cause would be established by substantial evidence, which it defined as “such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Cummings alleges there was insufficient evidence in his case, which was largely based on testimony from Mooney. The compensation the former chief is seeking was not detailed in his lawsuit.
When dismissing Cummings, Mayor Setti Warren said he behaved in “conduct unbecoming.” The civil suit Tuesday denies the claim, and argues that the city owes Cummings back pay in accordance with his contract.
According to the initial investigator’s report, Cummings made disparaging and vulgar remarks to Mooney in 2010. Mooney’s accusations came after she was accused of stealing $660 in cash from the department and destroying nearly $1,500 in checks in September 2011.
Mooney sued the city in federal and state court, saying she was set up on phony theft charges after clashing with Cummings. She was acquitted of larceny charges in May 2013 and has returned to work, but the suits are still pending.
Cummings’ dismissal has been a point of controversy in the city.
An arbitrator’s decision in March found that Newton fired Cummings based on the recommendation of its chief operating officer, Robert Rooney, who presided over a disciplinary hearing in October 2012. The arbitrator found that Mooney’s accusations at that hearing were not credible and the hearing did not include necessary evidence.
Cummings did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
City Solicitor Donnalyn B. Lynch Kahn said she was not aware of the lawsuit, but said the city would “vigorously defend” any suit that alleges he was improperly fired.