Court upholds back pay for fired Newton police chief accused of sexism
A former Newton police chief who was fired in 2012 over allegations that he used vulgar and sexist language with female employees is entitled to back pay that an arbitrator previously awarded him, the Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled.
In a six-page ruling issued Wednesday, the court said the city failed to show the arbitrator was improperly partial to Matthew A. Cummings, the former chief, when he awarded him back pay in March 2015.
Cummings said he was pleased with the ruling but noted that his federal lawsuit against the city is still pending.
“I’ve endured appeal after nonsense appeal from these people,” Cummings said of city officials. “It’s always come out the same every time. . . . Everything that they’ve accused me of is now gone, pretty much. The arbitrators don’t believe it. The judges don’t believe it.”
His lawyer, Timothy M. Burke, echoed those comments, saying Cummings was “falsely accused.”
A spokeswoman for Mayor Setti Warren’s office declined to comment on the Appeals Court ruling.
The city solicitor, Donnalyn B. Lynch Kahn, said the city has not yet determined whether it will appeal.
The court did not specify how much back pay Cummings is owed, but Burke said “the potential for his recovery is substantial.”
Arbitrator Michael W. Stutz initially ordered the city in October 2013 to reinstate Cummings with back pay, but the city successfully appealed, and the matter came before Stutz for a second time. He only ordered back pay in his March 2015 ruling because Cummings’s employment contract had expired by then.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the Appeals Court found that Stutz was sufficiently impartial.
“There is nothing to suggest that the arbitrator had any preexisting relationship with [Cummings] or his counsel, let alone a relationship that was undisclosed,” the court found.
Warren fired Cummings on Oct. 11, 2012, after an outside investigator compiled a report finding that he kicked and repeatedly swore at police secretary Jeanne Sweeney Mooney and called a pregnant police officer “fat,” according to prior legal filings.
The initial investigator’s report said Cummings called Mooney a “bitch” and told her “I think you look like a whore” in 2010.
Cummings also told a pregnant officer, “You’re almost as fat as I am,” according to the report.
However, Lieutenant Edward Aucoin testified in a disciplinary hearing that he never heard Cummings refer to women in those terms.
Mooney’s accusations against Cummings arose after she was accused of stealing $660 in cash from the department and destroying nearly $1,500 in checks in September 2011.
Mooney unsuccessfully sued the city in federal and state court, saying she was set up on phony charges after clashing with Cummings. She was acquitted of larceny charges in May 2013. Her state lawsuit is still pending against individual defendants including Cummings.
Cummings’s federal lawsuit against the city is slated for mediation in May.
Mooney and her lawyers could not be reached for comment.