In a fierce battle waged over a prolonged period, RJA represented the Chief of Police of Methuen Massachusetts who was terminated by his appointing authority, the Mayor, after the political winds began to blow against the Chief and the Mayor seized the opportunity to score points leading up to a re-election bid. After the Mayor fired the Chief at the local level, the matter was appealed to the Civil Service Commission, with a Commissioner assigned to the case who thereafter presided over almost two dozen days of hearings. By the end of the proceeding, the Commissioner had received almost two hundred lengthy exhibits, had heard from twenty-six witnesses and had received proposed decisions from the parties that were hundreds of pages in length.
RESULT: In a 125 page decision available here, a unanimous Civil Service Commission concluded that the appointing authority’s personal animus and political ambitions had taken control of his decision-making, violating the basic merit principles of civil service law to the detriment of the Chief of Police. The decision also found that the appointing authority had overreacted to politically-charged events, failed to seek the truth dispassionately and piled on charges of no substantial merit. As a consequence, the Chief was ordered to be returned to his position as Chief of Police with a significant back pay award.
Following receipt of the Commission decision, the City appealed to Superior Court, where the City also filed a motion seeking to block the Chief’s impending return to work. The City’s request to block the return was opposed by the attorneys at RJA and, after briefing and a hearing, a Superior Court judge rejected the City’s attempt to stop the Chief’s return, finding specifically that the City’s appeal did not have a reasonable likelihood of success. Although the City continues to press its appeal, the Chief has returned to work and the attorneys at RJA continue to litigate the matter to ultimate closure.
RJA Counsel: Attorney Andrew J. Gambaccini and Attorney John K. Vigliotti