Quincy officials will have to fight fewer battles in their dispute with fired police officer Joseph McGunigle, after a federal judge dismissed several parts of his lawsuit against the city.
In a decision issued July 25, US District Judge Joseph Tauro dismissed two of the five allegations against the city, along with any alleged wrongdoings prior to May 2009, as they fell outside the timeline of the complaint.
Other complaints, including claims about free speech and allegations of defamation by Police Chief Paul Keenan, have remained. Both sides said the decision was a victory
“It’s good news because it’s a smaller case, more discrete claims, and it’s something you can get your arms around,” said attorney Geoffrey Wermuth, representing both Keenan and Captain John Dougan of the Quincy Police Department.
Yet according to McGunigle’s attorney, Tim Burke, the fact that several of the city’s alleged violations remain show there is evidence pointing to them.
“He has a count of defamation, threats, intimidation, coercion. I consider it very much to be a success,” Burke said. “…Every count of significance is still there and they will have to answer to [the charges] before a jury.”
A lawsuit involving federal claims against the city, which are also being heard in the same court, will also move forward after Tauro denied the city’s motion to dismiss in May.
The city, named in the federal lawsuit, is represented by a different attorney.
Both the state claims and the federal claims will continue along parallel tracks in the Boston Division of the US District Court, and a resolution could be more than a year away.
The two sides will meet in upcoming weeks to set out a schedule for court proceedings and move on to the discovery phase. From there, documents supporting both sides’ opinions would be gathered and a case laid out before the judge.
Although McGunigle has made his preliminary case against the city, the discovery phase will be the first time the city will counter with its side of the story.
A judge looking at the information will also be able to view all evidence presented in an unbiased manner, unlike during the dismissal case where evidence had to be viewed in a light most favorable to the client.
Burke said he is still confident as the case moves forward. For Wermuth, the next phase would be the key point to the city’s future success.
“This is a motion to dismiss where the judge has to pretend everything the plaintiff said is true. We expect after a full airing of all the facts…that we’ll be successful in the case,” Wermuth said.
Wermuth said that the city planned to ask for a summary judgment once the discovery phase had concluded, and hoped for a quick resolution before it got to court. He added that the fact that an arbitrator had already agreed with the McGunigle firing made him even more confident that the city’s actions would be upheld.
McGunigle has been clashing with the city since a confrontation between himself and neighbors over dogs defecating on public property in 2007. The city sided initially with neighbors, but later lost an arbitration appeal process.
Since then, McGunigle has claimed he was denied medical leave, was required to undergo a psychological evaluation, and most recently had his gun license revoked after a confrontation with a neighbor.
Without a gun license, McGunigle was fired from his job.
His wife, Dianne McGunigle, said the ramifications between the city and her husband have continued, causing a request for a Firearms ID card to be delayed and a request for a License to Carry a firearm outright denied.
“I feel the chief is retaliating against me personally,” Diane McGunigle said.
McGunigle alleged that the department had 90 days to respond to her Firearms request, submitted in February. The FID card would allow her to carry pepper spray as well as a gun for target practice. The department’s lack of response has kept her in limbo, she said.
“It’s a violation of my rights. I don’t have the right, right now, to go in front of a judge. He’s holding me in limbo and in the meantime I have no chemical spray and I’m walking the streets of the city,” she said.
McGunigle said she would look into legal recourse if the controversy continued, adding another layer to a dispute that has lasted years.
Quincy Police declined to comment.