An inquiry into the Newton Police Department that led to the abrupt departure of Chief Matthew Cummings last month found examples of vulgar and unprofessional behavior at the command headquarters that oversees a city billed as one of the safest in the country.
Workers in the Newton police chief’s office frequently used profanity, a police captain may have made sexual and offensive remarks to a female officer, and a clerk followed and secretly photographed his supervisor because he suspected overtime abuse, according to the investigative report that led to the removal of Cummings.
The 12-page report paints a picture of banter between certain police employees that veered from flippant to uncomfortable and provides a more detailed account of incidents than previously outlined by city officials. The report, provided to the Globe by both the city and the attorney for Cummings. also raises more questions about behavior in the Police Department.
In response to the report, Mayor Setti Warren said in an interview that Newton residents should continue to have confidence in their Police Department and that the city receives very few workplace complaints. But Newton officials disclosed this week that they have also launched another investigation stemming from the report, the third inquiry into the Police Department in the past year, concerning a complaint that a captain made inappropriate comments to a pregnant officer.
Until that investigation is complete in October, Warren said he will hold off on any judgment of whether there is widespread misbehavior in the law enforcement agency.
“I will evaluate where the department is at the conclusion of that investigation,” Warren said. “I want to make sure I have the facts of that investigation, before I made a judgment around that question.”
Cummings was placed on administrative leave after Ed Mitnick, a consultant hired by the city of Newton, found that the chief made “boorish, disrespectful, and insulting” remarks to three female employees, including his secretary, and that although colleagues said he was trying to be funny, his behavior was offensive.
He is accused of calling his secretary, Jeanne Sweeney Mooney, a “bitch” and telling her “I think you look like a whore,” in 2010.
Timothy Burke, Cummings’s attorney, questioned the report, which he said relied heavily on Mooney’s version of events. Other employees in the Police Department told Mitnick they did not hear or recall the chief using those offensive words, said Burke, who has also been looking into the issue on his client’s behalf.
Cummings was usually trying to be funny, employees noted, and he did not create a hostile work environment, Burke said. Instead, during his three-year tenure, the department was well run, and last year Newton was named the fifth safest city of its size in the United States, Burke said.
“I don’t think the [political correctness] requirements of our society have gotten to the point that people can’t have a sense of humor even in the workplace,” Burke said in an interview earlier this week.
The Mitnick report is likely to play a large part in Cummings’s dismissal hearing, which is scheduled for Oct. 10.
According to the report, Mooney and another female employee also swore in the police station. A police lieutenant said that they “used more profanity in the police station than the typical police officer,” the report states.
The report notes that, according to Cummings, Mooney called him an “idiot” when he missed an appointment and the two of them “occasionally engaged in this type of friendly banter.”
Mooney, who has worked for the city for nearly 30 years, has been on paid administrative leave since September 2011.
She is at the center of a criminal case relating to accusations that she took an envelope containing cash collected through various police permit fees and destroyed nearly $1,500 in checks and a schedule of the payments. She pleaded not guilty to larceny over $250 earlier this week in Framingham District Court and has argued that the chief and other police employees set her up.
In a demand letter to city officials in May, Mooney raised concerns about Cummings’s past behavior, prompting the city to hire Mitnick.
Mitnick looked into the specific incidents Mooney described, but his report also highlighted other potential problems.
According to a footnote in Mitnick’s report, a female officer accused Police Captain Christopher Marzilli of making “numerous inappropriate and sexual offensive comments to her while she was pregnant and, thus, Captain Marzilli’s conduct may warrant a separate investigation.” Continued...