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Quincy officer, city continue dispute in private hearing Friday

Posted by Natalie Feulner  May 18, 2012 02:45 PM

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The latest development in the saga of a Quincy police officer who is suing the police chief and the city continued Friday with a private disciplinary hearing regarding the officer’s employment status.

Officer Joseph McGunigle, a 15-year veteran on the squad, has been serving a suspension assigned by Mayor Thomas Koch for personal conduct issues, since March 9 and had his firearms license revoked on March 13.

Police Chief Paul Keenan told The Boston Globe in late March that the license revocation resulted from numerous complaints about McGunigle by residents.

"Because of the complaints from the neighbors and the decision from the independent hearing officer confirmed that the neighbors are in fear and feel threatened by his behavior, I felt it was in the best interest of the city and the Police Department to revoke the permit," he said.

Since the department cannot employ police officers who don't have a firearms permit, it was not clear when McGunigle would return to work.

Friday morning, a hearing regarding Police Chief Paul Keenan’s request for McGunigle’s termination was held at city hall but several attorneys involved said it was closed to the public. Keenan and the city solicitor did not return calls for comment, both were at the hearing for most of the day.

McGunigle filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston on May 11 against Keenan and the city, laying out a timeline of complaints against McGunigle and events leading up to Friday’s employment hearing. It also alleges that during the past few years, Keenan “failed to maintain his neutrality” when handling incidents involving McGunigle and used the media to discredit him.

“It is grossly inappropriate for the chief of police to say he wants an employee terminated," McGunigle’s attorney Tim Burke said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. "No objective manager publicly calls for the termination of one of his employees,”

McGunigle is seeking damages for lost income and benefits, claiming that his civil rights and the state’s whistleblower law were violated, and alleges that his reputation has been damaged.

“The plaintiff suffered, and has continued to suffer, harassment, retaliatory acts, and disparate treatment as a result of the exercise of his First Amendment rights,” the complaint states.

Several incidents involving McGunigle, his neighbors, and police officers including former Chief Robert Crowley, are laid out in the complaint.

One particular incident regarding McGunigle’s suspension in September 2007 for continuing to issue dog ordinance citations despite being instructed not to was already resolved. An arbitrator overturned that suspension on appeal and McGunigle received lost wages.

Then in October, even though he had been ordered to stay out of the police station, McGunigle reportedly came into the station’s lobby to use the ATM while one of the witnesses in the traffic cone case was in the station. Police allege that McGunigle intimidated her and the mayor is currently handling that complaint separately.

It is not clear when the results of Friday’s hearing will be made public and it could take additional days, but Burke said he hopes to have the District Court case before a jury within a year.

“This is going to be very litigious, very costly for the City of Quincy, and they should have realized from the start that we are not going away,” Burke said.

Natalie Feulner can be reached at natalie.feulner@gmail.com.

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