Lawsuit settlements on the way, and one guess is here
With The Cambridge Chronicle winning its case forcing the city to reveal lawsuit settlement information, we’re technically in a 10-day countdown to see what the city paid Mary Wong and Linda Stamper for their claims of civil rights violations.
But it very likely won’t be that long, acting City Solicitor Nancy Glowa suggested Wednesday, even though the decision — which the state said it mailed Monday — didn’t reach her desk until after 4 p.m. Wednesday, after she hunted down a copy.
“I didn’t get it in the mail. It still hasn’t come in the mail,” Glowa said. She asked for a copy from Supervisor of Records Shawn A. Williams, of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office, after getting requests for the document from the Chronicle and Cambridge Day. “I just got it, I haven’t had a chance to review it.”
Her office has yet to go through the document anew to redact personnel information, she said, but “It’s not a very long agreement.”
It is the end of a very long road for the city, though, in which five female city employees of color made various claims of discrimination, civil rights violations and retaliation for complaints in the late 1990s, with summary dismissals for two of the five, Florencia LaChance and Marian Hampton, in February 2003; an $8.3 million award made Sept. 9 to Malvina Monteiro after a long appeals process; and the announcement of settlements for Stamper and Wong on Oct. 13. In April, a budget transfer request was made that detailed the transfer of $11.9 million to cover those lawsuits, with the Stamper and Wong settlements missing.
The city wanted to keep those amounts private, citing privacy and personnel exemptions to a request for information made by the Chronicle (and demanding silence from Stamper and Wong as part of their settlements). City Manager Robert W. Healy told the Chronicle that language by the Secretary of State’s Office clearing the way for revealing such information to the public was “just guidelines” that could be rewritten by court cases.
But on Wednesday, the state confirmed those court cases weren’t rewriting law after all.
Recent City Council candidate Tom Stohlman, too impatient to wait for the city to release the information and curious about its apparent sleight-of-hand in the budget — in which neither an accounting asked for by city councillors nor the city budget showed settlement amounts — took a stab at predicting what the city documents might reveal.
“This is nerd stuff,” Stohlman said. “But I was looking through budget numbers and some interesting numbers popped up.”
Stohlman’s guess is that Stamper and Wong will split some $1.5 million that was possibly sneaked into the budget mainly under a “damages” line item in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, when it jumped to nearly $1 million after two fiscal years in which the same line item accounted for less than $215,000 each.
“We could have a betting pool,” Stohlman said.
Stohlman’s amateur forensic accounting is included here for speculative purposes, with his permission; the city will release actual figures soon enough, according to Glowa.