Lawsuit information stays blocked; costs stay untallied
The city is being careful with the release of information about the settlement of three civil rights lawsuits, so much so that on Monday came the news that even city councillors don’t have the details behind the two cases settled before reaching a judge or jury.
Tuesday, though, the city responded to media requests for information in interesting ways.
“The total dollar amount paid by the city to date for outside legal counsel has not been tallied,” said Arthur Goldberg, of the city’s Law Department. This means that officially the city doesn’t know what it’s spent trying to defeat the charges of racial discrimination and workplace retaliation or negotiate the settlements ending those charges.
Also, according to City Clerk Margaret Drury, it is Mayor David Maher alone — albeit after consultation with the City Solicitor’s Office — who decided to keep secret the minutes of closed-door meetings at which the three cases were discussed. The case involving Malvina Monteiro went to court and was ultimately settled for $8.3 million in damages and legal fees. The settlements of Linda Stamper and Mary Wong are private.
“Despite the public announcement that the city has reached a settlement with Ms. Stamper and Ms. Wong, the litigation involving Ms. Monteiro, Ms. Stamper and Ms.Wong has not yet been concluded. Therefore, the city’s litigating position could still be jeopardized by premature disclosure of the requested records,” Drury said in an e-mail Tuesday.
This seems a technicality. The lawyer for all three women, Ellen Zucker, said as long ago as Oct. 13 that all that remained in the case was the formality of filing a single item of paperwork, a stipulation of dismissal. As shown in a state government PDF, it is a simple form that might have been filed within a week.
It looks unlikely any information will be released to voters before the Nov. 8 elections.
The clerk’s statement in full:
“You are advised that, pursuant to the state Open Meeting Law, the City Council has determined that the release of the requested executive session minutes would defeat the lawful purposes of the executive sessions and that therefore continued non-disclosure is warranted. The Mayor, as the Chair of the Council, after consultation with the City Solicitor’s office, has affirmed this decision in connection with your request. Despite the public announcement that the City has reached a settlement with Ms. Stamper and Ms. Wong, the litigation involving Ms. Monteiro, Ms. Stamper and Ms.Wong has not yet been concluded. Therefore, the City’s litigating position could still be jeopardized by premature disclosure of the requested records.”