The Newton Police Department secretary who is suing the city in federal court filed another $1 million civil lawsuit last week, this time in Middlesex Superior Court and citing Mayor Setti Warren in his individual capacity for allegedly conspiring with other city officials to falsely charge her with theft.
Jeanne Sweeney Mooney filed the federal civil rights complaint in March against the city, the mayor in his official capacity, the former police chief, and two other former department employees. Last month, she attempted to amend her federal complaint to name Warren in his personal capacity, but a US District Court judge in Boston denied the motion.
“We filed in Superior Court, and it’s because for some reason the federal court didn’t want to consider these claims,” said John F. Tocci, Sweeney Mooney’s lawyer. “Because we do have the right to file them, we’re going to seek redress in state court.”
Warren declined to comment on the state lawsuit filed on Friday, saying City Solicitor Donnalyn B. Lynch Kahn could speak for him.
Kahn said the city will respond to the new lawsuit, and will also be seeking sanctions against Sweeney Mooney for fees and costs incurred in connection with filing the response in state court on an issue that has already been settled in federal court.
“If you don’t like a judge’s ruling, and the judge dismisses your claims, it doesn’t mean you can pick up your dismissed claims and file them somewhere else,” said Kahn. “That’s actually kind of egregious and silly to think you can do that.”
Sweeney Mooney was placed on paid administrative leave in September 2011 after being accused of stealing department funds. She was acquitted of theft charges by a jury in May, and reinstated to her position. However, she was out on sick leave until Monday, when she returned to work in the department for the first time in nearly two years, Tocci said.
Both her federal and her state lawsuits state that she was set up on the theft charges in retaliation for complaining about the department’s chief at the time, Matthew Cummings, who Sweeney Mooney said had kicked her and called her a “bitch” and a “whore”.
An investigation by the department last year confirmed her claims that Cummings kicked and swore at her, and Warren fired him in October.
The state lawsuit echoes much of the federal complaint, but adds several allegations against Warren, including the assertion, based on an affidavit filed by Cummings in June, that Warren was responsible for the Police Department’s decision in June 2012 to pursue criminal charges against Sweeney Mooney.
“Just because you’re the mayor of a significant city, and you’re politically connected, you should not be above the law,” said Tocci. “We are trying to hold Setti Warren to account to the extent we’re holding the other defendants to account.”
In the city’s response filed in federal court, Kahn said the motion to sue Warren personally was designed “to smear him in an attempt to swiftly secure a settlement.”
Sweeney Mooney’s federal lawsuit is seeking $1.1 million in damages; Tocci has said he expects the case to go to trial, where the jury would decide any award.