The Newton Police Department secretary who is suing the city in federal court filed a separate lawsuit Friday in Middlesex Superior Court alleging that Mayor Setti Warren conspired with other city officials to falsely charge her with theft.
Jeanne Sweeney Mooney also returned to work Monday at the police station for the first time since she was placed on administrative leave nearly two years ago, said her lawyer, John F. Tocci.
Sweeney Mooney previously filed a federal civil rights complaint in March against the city, the mayor in his official capacity, as well as the former police chief and two other former department employees. Last month, Sweeney Mooney attempted to amend her federal complaint to name Warren in his personal capacity, but a federal judge denied the motion.
“We filed in Superior Court, and it’s because for some reason the federal court didn’t want to consider these claims,” said John F. Tocci, Sweeney Mooney’s attorney. “Because we do have right to file them, we’re going to seek redress in state court.”
Sweeney Mooney is seeking $1 million in her new suit against Warren.
The mayor declined to comment on the suit, saying City Solicitor Donnalyn B. Lynch Kahn could speak for the city.
Kahn said the city will respond to the new suit, and will also be seeking sanctions against Sweeney Mooney for fees and costs incurred in connection with filing a response in state court to a claim that has already been dismissed in federal court.
“If you don’t like a judge’s ruling, and the judge dismisses your claims, it doesn’t mean you can pick up your dismissed claims and file them somewhere else,” said Kahn. “That’s actually kind of egregious and silly to think you can do that.”
Sweeney Mooney was placed on paid administrative leave in September 2011 after being accused of stealing department funds. She was acquitted of theft charges by a jury in May of this year, and has recently been out on sick leave.
Both her federal and her state lawsuit contend she was set up on the charges in retaliation for complaining a year earlier about former Police Chief Matthew Cummings, who she said kicked her and called her a “bitch” and a “whore.”
After an investigation by the department, Warren fired Cummings in October 2012.
The state complaint echoes much of the federal complaint, but adds several allegations against Warren, including the claim, based on an affidavit filed by Cummings this past June, that Warren was responsible in June of 2012 for the decision to pursue criminal charges against Sweeney Mooney.
“Just because you’re the mayor of a significant city, and you’re politically connected, you should not be above the law,” said Tocci. “We are trying to hold Setti Warren to account to the extent were holding the other defendants to account.”
In the city’s response in federal court, Kahn called the effort to sue Warren personally an attempt “to smear him in an attempt to swiftly secure a settlement”.
The last demand in the federal civil rights suit was $1.1 million, but Tocci has said he expects the case to go to trial and for a jury to decide any award.
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org