FRAMINGHAM – A Massachusetts Labor Relations Division investigator ruled to dismiss one complaint against the City of Framingham today, January 11, but ruled in favor of the Framingham Police Officers Union on another complaint, which alleged the City engaged in prohibitive practices against one of its employees.
Now the complaint moves to a to-be-determine hearing date with the Division between the City and the Police Union. Both parties have the right to appeal the hearing ruling to the courts.
The hearing will determine if the City of Framingham retaliated against one of its officers, who had filed grievances, complaints, and lawsuits against the Police Department.
The Framingham Police Officers Union filed the two complaints in June 2018.
On November 1, 2018, days after Steven Trask was sworn in as the City’s newest police chief, state’s investigator Thomas Hatfield conducted an in-person investigation, and found “probable cause to believe that a violation had occurred.”
The Union, in its complaint argued, the City and the Chief, retaliated against Matthew Gutwill by denying him three positions he applied for.
Between October and December 2016, Gutwill, either himself or through his union, filed grievances, a Civil Service appeal, and a Federal District Court lawsuit over several actions by the City against Gutwill, including a 5-day suspension for untruthfulness. The Union argued all of these activities are protected under the law, in its complaint.
Between May 4 and May 10, 2018, Gutwill applied for the positions of School Resource Officer, Detective, and Forensic Investigator.
On June 18, 2018, Gutwill was informed that acting police chief Trask would not consider him for any of the positions, according to the state document.
The Union argued that the “City, acting through its agent, Trask, took the action … in retaliation for Gutwill engaging in the concerted, protected activity.”
And, the Union argued the “City has derivatively interfered with, coerced and restrained Gutwill in the exercise of his rights protected” by the law.
“I am thankful the DLR (state) has found probable cause to issue a complaint for retaliation by the city against me,” said Gutwill to SOURCE. “As I had stated in my federal lawsuit filed in November 2015 and more recently in the DLR complaint that the union was forced to file, when the City continued retaliatory behavior.”
In 2016, former Framingham Police Chief Ken Ferguson removed Gutwill from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Task Force, and put him back on patrol.
After grievances and court appearances, the state appeals court ruled the law resides with the police chief to manage his department, and cannot be altered through collective bargaining or arbitration.
Gutwill told the courts the chief removed him from the drug task force in retaliation for filing a complaint against another officer in September 2015.
Gutwill in court documents said a another detective knowingly lied under oath while testifying in court.
After that complaint, police conducted a 4-month internal investigation.
And in August 2016, Chief Ferguson placed Gutwill on paid administrative leave. He returned to work in December 2016.
Gutwill had also filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit, against the former chief and the department, alleging retaliation. But the courts sided with the Chief and Framingham.
“Framingham is not required to justify the transfer and reassignment of Officer Gutwill or prove that the decision, predicated on the best interests of the department, was not otherwise pretext behind disciplinary motives,” according to court documents.
The Police Union in its June 2018 complaint to the state said what happened to Officer Gutwill had a “chilling effect” on the union members in the department.
But the state investigator with Labor Relations Division wrote “other than the broad claim, the Union has failed to provide any evidence of a nexus between the City’s actions against Gutwill and a detrimental impact upon other employees in the exercise of their Section 2 rights. Thus, I decline to find that City’s refusal to allow Gutwill to be considered for the positions for which he applied would chill reasonable employees in the exercise of their Section 2 rights.”
And that aspect of the complaint was dismissed today, January 11.
SOURCE contacted the Union’s law office. No call was returned.