The Baker administration wrongly blamed career State Police civilian employee Melissa O’Meara for mistakes in the Office of Alcohol Testing according to an arbitrator who has ordered that she be rehired and collect $255,000 in back pay.
O’Meara was fired in 2017 by the administration after the Office of Alcohol Testing that she led failed to fully comply with court orders that the agency provide maintenance records on breath test machines used by police to test alcohol levels of drivers.
At the time of her firing, O’Meara was technical director of the OAT, which was part of the State Police Crime Lab in Framingham.
Prodded by the defense bar, eight prosecutors and state courts did not use breath test results produced by the Draeger Alcotest 9510 machines between June 2011 and this April because the machines could have generated false positives.
The litigation impacted thousands of drunken driving cases statewide, defense lawyers have said.
In a 23-page decision, arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier said O’Meara was following the same policies and procedures she inherited when she took command of the office, that she was not trained on evidence discovery rules used by the judiciary, and that she tried to get help on the issue, but was denied it because her superiors said they did not have enough money to pay for the training.
“There is no evidence that, prior to events in this case, [O’Meara] was ever criticized for failing to produce such responsive documents or told she was mishandling discovery requests,’’ Neumeier concluded. “Neither [O’Meara] nor other OAT personnel received training in recognizing or handling potentially exculpatory material.”
The arbitrator added: “The Employer has not established that it had just cause to terminate [O’Meara]. Rather than being contrary to the public interest and the mission of the Department, her continued employment would be beneficial as it has been during her 25 years of service.”
O’Meara’s attorney, Timothy Burke of Needham, has asked the Superior Court to order the administration to rehire O’Meara. But their response was to go into court themselves and ask that the courts throw out the arbitrator’s ruling in her favor.
The litigation is pending.