First Monteiro, now final two civil rights lawsuits settled
The final two of seven remaining civil rights filed against Cambridge more than a decade ago have been settled, according to a Thursday press release issued by the city and the plaintiffs, Linda Stamper and Mary Wong.
A press release says they “jointly announce that they have resolved their differences with respect to the pending claims brought by Ms. Wong and Ms. Stamper … the parties are all pleased with this amicable outcome.”
The previous case, Malvina Monteiro vs. City of Cambridge, was won just last month by Ellen Zucker, of the law firm of Burns & Levinson, to the tune of $8.3 million in awards and fees. She handled the cases of the other women of color, Stamper and Wong, as well. The other four accusers dropped their lawsuits over the years.
But while the payout in the Monteiro case was known — and, with the city’s legal fees, likely to hit a total of some $11.3 million — these final two cases were settled quietly (like the one just announced for a federal lawsuit filed by a Harvard professor against Cambridge Police for a 2006 arrest). Zucker, in a telephone interview Thursday, said neither she nor Stamper and Wong were “at liberty to talk about the substance of the settlement.” Legally, the cases could wrap up within a week with the filing of a stipulation of dismissal, but Zucker could not say even that the city’s settlement money had been wired.
After a 2008 trial, a Middlesex Superior Court jury awarded Monteiro $4.5 million in damages, $3.5 million of which were punitive damages. The payout grew in amount only because of a protracted appeals process that has been attributed to a decision by City Manager Robert W. Healy.
Wong intends to leave her position as executive director of the Cambridge Kids Council toward the end of the year, Zucker said. “There are a number of projects she will now be able to devote herself to,” Zucker said.
Stamper, who at one time was legal counsel for the city, has a private law practice in Cambridge.
Zucker called her “an amazing woman” who grew up poor in Boston and went on despite great odds to graduate from Brown and Columbia universities, then teach in Boston during desegregation while earning her law degree at night. She also lauded Wong for her “unparalleled commitment to kids and giving kids a voice in policy.” She leaves her job with the city’s Department of Human Service Programs “because she really does think her job is done.”
Asked if the settlement included any obligation on the part of the city to step up anti-discrimination education or efforts in any way, Zucker again said she couldn’t comment.
“Ms. Wong and Ms. Stamper joined with Malvina Monteiro in the late 1990s and raised concerns they had about racial discrimination and retaliation they believed they faced for addressing worries they had about unfair treatment,” Zucker said. “They feel content at this point that their job is done. They leave it to the city of Cambridge to decide what lessons need to be learned from the concerns they raised.”
Language agreed to by the city for the press release suggests the cases have had an impact.
“The City of Cambridge affirms its commitment to diversity and equal opportunity, and to protecting the rights of employees in the workplace,” according to the press release issued by The Castle Group, a public relations firm based in Charlestown’s Navy Yard. “Ms. Wong and Ms. Stamper appreciate the City’s commitment and are satisfied that resolving this matter allows all parties to move forward.”
Healy, called for comment Thursday, declined through an assistant. As with Zucker, the assistant said the press release included all Healy wanted to say on the matter.
A request for comment was left Thursday at the offices of Stamper and Wong.