WORCESTER — A trial in the Telegram & Gazette’s lawsuit against the city over its refusal to release police disciplinary records continued Friday in Worcester Superior Court.
Assistant City Solicitor Janice E. Thompson, who took the stand when the trial opened Nov. 2, testified all day Friday about the city’s denial of records the T&> requested in 2018.
Chiefly at issue in the case is whether the city can withhold internal affairs records and summaries because an officer is being sued for misconduct.
The city argues an exemption to Massachusetts Public Records Law allows it to do so. The T&> argues the city is misapplying the exemption.
Judge Janet Kenton-Walker heard nearly six hours of testimony from Thompson Friday, much of it under cross-examination from Jeffrey J. Pyle, a Boston lawyer representing the T&>.
The hearing, which was conducted via Zoom, focused largely on procedural and technical questions about the newspaper’s request and the city’s responses.
Kenton-Walker was frequently asked to settle objections to questions posed to Thompson, with Pyle and Assistant City Solicitor Wendy L. Quinn differing on what was in or out of bounds.
The testimony included several terse exchanges between Pyle and Thompson, who at one juncture was advised by Kenton-Walker that she could not answer Pyle’s questions with a question of her own.
Kenton-Walker also sustained many of the city’s objections, including to a line of questioning in which Pyle sought to probe suspicions that the city had not acted in good faith in its response to the request.
The city initially agreed to provide the T&> thousands of pages of records in 2018 if it paid nearly $4,000, but informed the newspaper its position had changed the following month.
An email referenced Friday shows Thompson informing another city official the response would need to be changed, without stating what the revision would be, or the reasoning.
Asked about the reasoning Nov. 2 by Quinn, Thompson testified she had a conversation “in passing” with city litigators – who work in a different division of the Law Department – and determined that disclosing the records could compromise ongoing litigation.
Under cross-examination Friday, Thompson testified that she could not recall the person with whom she had the 2018 conversation, or recall its specifics.
She further testified she could not recall who specifically within the city Law Department determined that the exemption to Massachusetts Public Records at issue – the “deliberative process” exemption – applied.
Friday’s testimony also touched upon the city’s recent decision to stop redacting conclusions of internal affairs reports it releases to the public.
Thompson testified the city’s decision will not be extended to all conclusions.
The city will continue to withhold conclusions to reports that concern officers being sued in any case, she said, regardless of whether the lawsuit pertains to the internal affairs case at issue.
The city will likewise withhold documents that show an officer’s history with internal affairs – including outcomes of cases already investigated – if the officer is facing a lawsuit at the time of a request, she said.
The T&> argues the city is not allowed to use the deliberative process exemption in this way.
Thompson is set to resume testimony in the trial – which will be decided by the judge, not a jury – on Dec. 11.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Trial between T&>, city over police records continues
Published at Mon, 23 Nov 2020 10:28:28 +0000