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Newton challenges arbitrator's decision ordering reinstatement of fired police chief

Posted by Evan Allen  October 23, 2013 05:25 PM

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The city of Newton filed a complaint in Middlesex Superior Court last week challenging an arbitrator’s ruling that said the city was wrong to fire Police Chief Matthew Cummings in Oct. 2012 and that ordered Cummings to be reinstated and given back pay.

The complaint, filed by City Solicitor Donnalyn B. Lynch Kahn on Oct. 17, says the ruling is not “in accordance with the law,” and that the order to reinstate Cummings and give him back pay is “against public policy and illegal.”

Cummings was dismissed for “conduct unbecoming,” after an outside investigator found that he had displayed “boorish” behavior to female employees, kicking and swearing at police secretary Jeanne Sweeney Mooney and calling a pregnant officer “fat.”

In an Oct. 10 ruling, however, arbitrator Michael W. Stutz disputed the report’s findings, and concluded that the city violated Cummings’s contract by firing him.

Kahn has said that regardless of the arbitrator’s decision, Cummings will not be reinstated: though he was originally fired by Warren on Oct. 11, 2012, the city terminated Cummings again on Sept. 16 of this year under a different portion of his contract that allows for termination without cause in the fifth year.

In the city’s complaint, Kahn argues that the arbitrator did not properly consider how the city interpreted Cummings’ refusal to testify at his termination hearing. The city, said Kahn in an interview, is allowed to draw a “negative inference” from refusal to testify.

Kahn also argued that the arbitrator accepted the facts from the point of view of Cummings, and that requiring the city to rehire him was a violation of public policy.

Cummings’s attorney Timothy M. Burke could not immediately be reached for comment.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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