City to Issue Decision Today on Newton Police Chief's Dismissal
Following yesterday's lengthy public hearing, Chief Operating Officer Robert Rooney said he would make his decision on Cummings' dismissal within 24 hours.
A decision will soon be made on whether to keep Matthew Cummings as Newton's Police Chief.
Acting as a representative for Mayor Setti Warren, Chief Operating Officer Robert Rooney presided over Cummings' public dismissal hearing yesterday at Newton City Hall. At the conclusion of the six-hour hearing, Rooney said the decision on whether to dismiss Cummings "would be rendered within 24 hours."
The majority of yesterday's hearing focused on three alleged incidents involving Cummings and his former secretary, Jeanne Sweeney Mooney. Mooney claims that on separate occasions in 2010, Cummings called her a "bitch" told her she "looked like a whore" and kicked her in the foot.
The hearing was made public, per Cummings' request, and the City Hall room was packed with onlookers.
Although Cummings did not speak during the hearing, his attorney, Timothy Burke, argued that no other witness who testified yesterday could back up Mooney's allegations that Cummings called her a "bitch" or "whore." Burke also argued that Mooney's allegations have a "clear-cut, improper motive" of retaliation against theft charges that the Newton Police have brought against her.
"[Cummings] is a great public servant and he deserves better," Burke said in a brief press conference after the hearing.
Mooney is currently facing charges on allegations from the Newton Police that she stole $660 from the department as well as destroyed $1,500 in checks and a schedule of the fee payments. The former secretary was placed on administrative leave in September 2011 and has filed a complaint with the city demanding $600,000 in damages.
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Attorney Robert Sinsheimer, who represented the city, argued that while Cummings' alleged actions might not have been malicious in nature, they were "unbecoming of a police chief." Trying to kick Mooney's foot, which Cummings admits to in the city's investigation, was "un-consented contact" with an employee and calls for termination under Cummings' contract, Sinsheimer added.
"A police officer has to behave in a manner that brings honor and respect to law enforcement," Sinsheimer said during the hearing. "That would be true of any police officer, but a chief must take an even higher road because he/she must lead by example."
During her testimony yesterday at City Hall, Mooney stood by the allegations she made against Cummings. Although she recognized some of Cummings' alleged comments might have been a joke, "they didn't go over well," she said.
"It wasn't funny and it wasn't nice," Mooney said.
In addition to Mooney, the attorneys interviewed six other witnesses during yesterday's hearing, including several members of the Newton Police Department and Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau.
Most of the questioning surrounded the evidence and information presented in a report given by attorney Edward Mitnick, who was hired by the city to investigate the allegations against Cummings.
Mitnick, who was also questioned during the proceedings, was hired this summer after Mooney filed a complaint with the city about Cummings' behavior. The 12-page report details Mitnick's investigation and interviews with several members of the police department as well as his findings in regards to Cummings' comments toward Mooney. Mitnick concluded in his report that there was "sufficient, credible evidence" the comments were made.
Following Mitnick's investigation, Cummings was placed on administrative leave pending his dismissal hearing. At the time, Mayor Setti Warren said he had initiated the process of Cummings' removal from the department.
At the start of the hearing. Burke argued for Rooney to step down as the presiding hearing officer and asked to for the hearing to be suspended until an "independent" hearing officer (someone outside of City Hall) could be found. The city, Burke said, had a conflict of interest and "financial benefit to gain to implicate [Cummings]" due to Mooney's pending lawsuit and Warren's earlier comments in a press conference stating that he planned to fire Cummings.
However, Rooney denied Burke's motion.
Since the investigation into Cummings and the release of Mitnick's full report, the city has launched another investigation into the department.
Stay tuned to Patch for updates on this story.