Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fun and game in the office, Newton PD edition

I am always astounded to read about folks who, in this day and age, behave in a completely oafish manner in the work place.  Or even in what (in the oaf’s mind, at least) may be a  humorous manner that backfires.

Thus we have the case of Newton (Mass.) Police Chief Matthew Cummings, who is on administrative leave because  of “boorish, disrespectful, and insulting” comments made to female employees. (Source: Boston.com.)

According to the report, commissioned by the city, Cummings called his former secretary a “bitch” and told her “I think you look like a whore” in 2010. That year he also kicked the secretary, Jeanne Sweeney Mooney, in the foot, sending her shoe flying and causing a bloody cut on the back of her foot, according to the report.

Oh, har-har-hardy-har-har.

What woman wouldn’t want to be called a bitch, told she looks like a whore, and kicked in the foot by Mr. Big?

The report also states that in the summer of 2011, he told a pregnant officer, “You’re almost as fat as I am,” and asked another female employee who had a tattoo, “How drunk were you when you got that?”

The sad thing here is that, as the report notes (although not in these exact terms), Cummings wasn’t being bullying or a shit, but was trying to be funny. (And I’ve got to say that the “How drunk were you…” question is pretty darned funny.)

I’m guessing that Cummings was just not taking into consideration that he wasn’t just one of the guys in the office, who might be able to get away with this type of kidding around – I say might because you really never know who’ll be offended by what.  I’ve seen situations in which completely innocuous, lame-ass attempts at humor were blown completely out of proportion by umbrage-takers with an axe to grind. You really do have to pick your spots before you make flip, offhand remarks at work. Stranger-danger unless you completely know that the other person won’t be offended. Or that you can trust the person to tell you that they’re offended, without making a federal case out of it (i.e., ratting you out to HR).

But Cummings wasn’t just one of the guys – he was the boss – so comments that might have elicited groans or eye-rolling if they came from a rank and filer take on a Bigger Meaning.

For Cummings, this Bigger Meaning means that he’s on leave and the city has started moving towards firing him.

“This is not the conduct and behavior I expect, or the people of the city expect,” [Mayor Setti] Warren said.

Warren said Cummings’s behavior was “unacceptable no matter what framework.”

Cummings will have his day in court, but he risks losing a job at which he earned $168K last year. That won’t be easy to replace at age 57. On the other hand, as a cop of long standing, he will have a pension.

Meanwhile, the complainer who’s letter set off the investigation into Cummings’ conduct has an interesting story in her own right.

Jeanne Sweeny Mooney:

…is at the center of a separate criminal case relating to allegations that she took an envelope containing cash collected through various police permit fees, and destroyed nearly $1,500 in checks and a schedule of the payments.

Mooney, who has been on paid administrative leave from the city since late September, was charged last week with one count of larceny of over $250.

Mooney has denied the charge and accused the police department of pursuing a criminal case in retaliation for her complaints against Cummings.

But there is, of course, the other way to look at this: that blowing the (police) whistle on Cummings would have investigators investigating that-a-way, rather than looking into whether Mooney was sticky-fingering a few bucks.

If the best defense is a good offense, Mooney’s got game:

…Mooney demanded $600,000 from Newton for her pain and suffering stemming from the theft allegation, as well as a reinstatement of her job and the firing of Cummings.

In addition to the bitch-whore-kick-in-the-foot claims –which were found to be true, albeit crude and clumsy attempts at humor -  Mooney also claimed that Cummings had put in for a raise he wasn’t eligible for – turns our he was. And that he’d tried to browbeat her into doing more work by showing her a surveillance photo, purportedly taken by a TV station investigating her – which he hadn’t. (Oddly, another police employee, acting alone, had been taking pics of Mooney – to what end, it’s not clear.)

Wonder what kind of productivity hit this grand old soap opry has inflicted on the Newton PD?

Who needs to talk Red Sox around the water cooler when they’ve got this multi-threaded gossip-fest?

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