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Dispute with fired police officer costs Quincy $60k so far

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 18, 2012 03:09 PM

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On ongoing dispute between Quincy and a fired police officer has racked up almost $60,000 in legal bills for the city, city officials said Monday.

Court cases and appeals have been ongoing between the city and 15-year Quincy Police Department veteran Joseph McGunigle since June, when McGunigle was terminated from his position and had his gun permit revoked.

The gun revocation and termination were the result of several disputes with neighbors near McGunigle’s Post Island Road home, as well as a history of conflict within the department.

Since then, McGunigle has appealed a revocation of his gun permit to District Court, sued the city for a civil rights violation, and appealed his termination through arbitration.

According to Director of Human Resources Steve McGrath, many aspects of the legal case are ongoing.

A hearing on the civil rights case has not yet been scheduled. A US District Court judge initially dismissed the lawsuit, but the dismissal was rescinded due to a miscommunication between lawyers.

The city is also going through an arbitration process with McGunigle over his termination and previous suspension.

“We have begun arbitration testimony, but that has not been completed,” McGrath told city councilors on Monday.

Hearings will continue in January, though they may not conclude until the spring.

The one aspect that has been decided was the gun revocation.

In the last several weeks, a district judge denied the appeal of the gun permit revocation. That ruling can be appealed to Superior Court, though no filings have been made to do so.

Throughout all of this, the city has hired an outside legal council - Murphy, Hesse, Toomey, & Lehane – to represent it.

Typically the Solicitor’s Office represents the city in court, but according to Police Chief Paul Keenan, who recommended going with an outside lawyer, it was better for all involved to seek outside help.

“We just felt, and the city law office felt, where there was Quincy case and Quincy ties, we felt it would be better to get an outside attorney,” Keenan said in a phone interview. “Keeps it cleaner.”

An appropriation for approximately $58,000 in legal bills was approved Monday night by the City Council. But according to City Councilor Margaret Laforest, the bills for this case are far from over.

“We anticipate legal costs on the city in going through this termination process of upwards of over $100,000,” she said. “I know that this has been very difficult for the residents in the Post Island area and the McGunigles, and the resolution - the speedier the better. But it’s important to have good relations with these firms, we appreciate the work they have done on this case.”

The size of legal fees for the McGunigle side is unclear. Though McGunigle is paying the cost of the civil rights lawsuit himself, councilors believe the other costs have been paid by the police union.

Union President Terry Downing had no comment on the case or the cost. McGunigle did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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