Manchester Master Plan

A Stronger Manchester Starts With Us

May 16

[ARCHIVED] From the Town Administrator's Desk - May 17, 2018

The original item was published from May 16, 2018 10:45 AM to May 16, 2018 3:11 PM




I write to update residents on a suit that has finally worked its way through the judicial system. The Town has accepted responsibility and has reached an agreement in the form of an "offer of judgement" with a former police dispatcher and reserve officer who, in a 2016 lawsuit, alleged gender discrimination against the Manchester-by-the-Sea Police Department dating back to 2013.

As part of the resolution, the town has agreed to pay $500,000 to the former employee, which includes her attorney’s fees. The town’s liability insurance carrier handled the case for the Town and will be covering the cost of the agreement as well as our attorney fees.

The lawsuit alleged a number of non-physical incidents, including inappropriate conduct and comments, and retaliatory actions toward the employee. The suit also suggested that there were ineffective attempts to correct the action at the time, which mainly focuses on incidents occurring between 2013 and 2015. While the lawsuit focused its allegations against two officers, it suggested a systemic problem within the department. The plaintiff has since left the department to take a full-time police officer position in her hometown.

By agreeing to the offer of judgement, the Town accepts responsibility for inappropriate behavior on the part of members of the Police Department.

As a town government, we need to be able to look inward, and in this instance, it was clear that the plaintiff was treated poorly, provided with hostile and unwelcome working conditions, discriminated against for her gender and her status as an expectant and later as a new mother. We need to take ownership of these facts, because it is the only way to improve. While corrective actions were put into motion as soon as the offended employee came to me with her concerns in 2015, the damage had already been done.

In the three years since the officer's allegations, the Manchester-by-the-Sea Police Department has seen a major transformation, most importantly by hiring a progressive new police chief, Edward G. Conley.  Chief Conley was formally the commanding officer of the Chelsea Police Department’s internal affairs division. The Town also hired an outside investigator the day after the plaintiff came to me, disciplined two employees, revamped its policies, hired a third party agency to retrain all officers in the avoidance of discrimination and sexual harassment, and built a new woman’s locker room. The department has also recently hired two new female full-time police officers in its most recent recruit class and has made a commitment to diversify its ranks.

"The Manchester-by-the-Sea Police Department is committed to upholding a welcoming and inclusive workplace culture, which is in the best interests not only of the police department but of the citizens we are sworn to serve," Chief Conley said. "As police officers, we must be held to the highest possible standards of professionalism and conduct. Our community rightfully demands this, and they should receive no less."

The good news is that we have taken significant steps to ensure this is always the case.