Quincy's police chief wants to fire a police officer who has been the subject of several complaints over the years and has been on paid administrative leave for a month after a dispute with a neighbor.
The mayor's office said an outside hearing officer will be brought in to conduct the hearing on Officer Joseph T. McGunigle, whose wife said the latest complaint "is almost a joke."
The exact charges are unclear in the most recent complaint, which is not available to the public because it remains under active investigation. But Police Chief Paul Keenan said an internal investigation was conducted, and McGunigle was found responsible for his actions.
"[It was] a complaint of harassment against one of the neighbors. He also violated department rules," Keenan said. "I felt it was serious enough to put him on paid administrative leave."
"We have had prior incidents with him," Keenan said of McGonigle. "I've requested termination."
McGonigle was placed on an unpaid five-day suspension beginning Sept. 8. A weeklong suspension is the most the chief can give to an officer. After that, the chief put McGunigle on paid administrative leave, and any further discipline now must go through the office of Mayor Thomas Koch.
McGunigle has been a frequent contributor to Koch campaigns in the past. Most recently, he donated $200 to the Koch campaign on May 25 of this year.
The sensitivity of the case is the reason for bringing in an outside hearing officer, a spokesman for the mayor's office said.
"There is a process and we’re following that process. The mayor, chief, and recommendation from the chief, he takes that recommendation very seriously. These are serious allegations," said spokesman Christopher Walker.
"There were a variety of reasons why the outside hearings officer was brought in, and that’s one of them. We want to make sure everyone involved feels there has been a fair shake."
The hearing will most likely happen within the next 7-10 days, Walker said. Keenan also hoped the hearing would be held in the next two weeks.
According to Keenan, there have been a number of complaints filed against McGunigle, who has been on the Quincy police force since 1998.
As detailed in previous articles and reports, in 2007 McGunigle issued approximately 11 citations to neighbors for not keeping dogs on leashes or for failing to clean up after their dogs on the beach, with fines ranging from $50 to $100.
McGunigle has also acknowledged videotaping offenders, which neighbors have said intimidates them.
McGunigle was told to stop by then-Police Chief Robert Crowley. When McGunigle proceeded to hand out citations, he was placed on unpaid leave for five days for ignoring orders.
The officer was later cleared by an arbitrating judge, who said that McGunigle could not be told by a superior not to enforce the law. He received back pay in March 2009 for the incident.
Prior to the 2007 suspension, he also allegedly tore down a neighbor's fence that he believed was on his property. McGunigle was also put on suspension in 2001 for ticketing a Hull officer who ticketed his daughter.
In a telephone interview today, McGunigle's wife, Dianne, said the 2001 incident is the only suspension for which her husband has not been exonerated.
"The police chief, no new news, has had it out for my husband over issues in the past, and he's been exonerated every time," Dianne McGunigle said. "He's only been suspended one time. Every other incident has been expunged."
The most recent incident, she said, "is almost a joke."
She said the report details how National Grid workers were doing gas main work on Post Island Road, where the McGunigles live. When the crews left, workers allegedly left orange cones on the street. Neighbor Michelle Webber, an 11 Post Island Rd. resident, allegedly then took the cones.
McGunigle was passing by the house when he saw the cones, which he then took to give them back to National Grid, his wife said.
As a result, Webber filed the complaint, saying that Joseph McGunigle threatened her and trespassed on her property. According to Dianne McGunigle, the charges in the complaint include Evidence and Property Handling,Untruthfulness and Personal Conduct.
"He has never threatened anybody, never done anything bad around here," his wife said. "My husband was suspended for basically retrieving found property, which every police officer does in every area of the city."
Webber could not be reached for comment.
According to Dianne, besides the residents who were initially peeved about her husband's dog citations, there have been no complaints against her husband and no other civil matters with neighbors.
Most of the neighbors could not be reached or declined to comment, though Dorothy Gott, from 16 Poplar Rd., said there haven't been many issues as of late.
"I haven't had any problems; I don't know if anyone else has," she said.
It's an account Dianne McGunigle supported, saying that this most recent incident was unwarranted.
"My husband also got commendations for catching bank robbers, getting letters for being a great police officer," she said. "This is personal on the chief's part, and I think my husband will be exonerated again."
Jessica Bartlett can be reached at email@example.com.