Saturday, July 20, 2024

An order for the city manager to report publicly on fast-approaching lawsuits similar to one that cost the city some $11 million was tabled Monday by city councillor Sam Seidel, who said he wanted to set it aside because “we’re not all here.”

The councillors’ nine seats filled in quickly, though. For the bulk of the otherwise rather lightweight meeting — it lasted only an hour, as opposed to the previous week’s four and a half hours — only Craig Kelley was missing.

Linda Stamper and Mary Wong are women of color suing the city in a suit similar to that of Malvina Monteiro, who went from being executive secretary for the city’s Police Review & Advisory Board to a years-long suit for racial discrimination, retaliation for a complaint of that discrimination and wrongful termination. They share lawyer Ellen Zucker, who won $8.3 million for Monteiro and herself.

Because litigation was involved, most discussion about the lawsuits between the council and City Manager Robert W. Healy — whose testimony was key to the city’s loss in the case but who also had responsibility for deciding to appeal and increasing the ultimate payout by millions — were held in closed-door meetings. Requests to see the minutes of those meetings from the Cambridge Chronicle and citizens such as council candidate Tom Stohlman have been rejected.

The Sept. 12 policy order signed by all the councillors asked:

That the city manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the City Council at its Sept. 19 meeting on the status of any cases for which the recently concluded Monteiro case might be relevant. To the extent that public discussion on some aspects of these cases may be detrimental to the city’s legal position, the City Council may go into executive session, but executive session would be as limited as possible.

“Once the case is settled, the public’s right to know becomes paramount,” Stohlman said.

Resident Kathy Podgers went further.

“It seems to me the executive sessions were detrimental to the city. Perhaps if more was publicly discussed, we could have avoided the ultimate judgment,” Podgers said. “Think about it.”

Zucker has said Wong has a pretrial hearing this month, and resident Richard Clarey, an attorney who’s kept a close eye on the Monteiro proceedings, said there’s a final status conference Oct. 11, when a trial date will be set.

Although the order bears Monday’s date, councillors said it hasn’t expired just because Monday has passed. And when it returns next week, it cannot be tabled.