Saturday, August 20, 2011

Monteiro v. Cambridge: Questions and Answers

Archie Mazmanian has questions on the City Manager’s statement concerning Malvina Monteiro. For readability, I have inserted my answers immediately after each question.

The City Manager’s statement as quoted by the Cambridge Chronicle is posted at


I have been rereading this portion of Healy's statement:

"I am very disappointed with this decision and maintain that the City did not retaliate against Ms. Monteiro after having been found by an earlier jury not to have discriminated against her. I have reviewed the Appeals Court decision with legal counsel and informed the City Council this morning that I have decided not to pursue an appeal to the State Supreme Judicial Court in this 13 year old case. It is now time for the City to move forward and bring closure to this matter."

and have a few question:

1. Wasn't the retaliation brought about by City Manager Healy's actions? His actions resulted because of his role as the City Manager for which the City has legal responsibility. But he seems to shift full responsibility to the City of Cambridge as if he is teflon.

Response by editor:

The Cambridge pol organization certainly looks like it was created by the City Manager’s people. One way to identify a lot of these people is the almost reflexive response to their actions and words: You cannot possibly be so stupid.

The finding of judge, jury and appeals court is that Malvina Monteiro's life was heartlessly destroyed by the Cambridge City Manager because she had the nerve to exercise her rights under civil rights law. The $1.1 million reflects the jury's attempts to make her whole insofar as as money can do that.

The $3.5 million is the jury's attempt to try to communicate their opinion of the behavior of the Cambridge City Manager. The most visible entities with whom the jury is trying to communicate are the voters of the City of Cambridge and the City Manager's employers, the Cambridge City Council. Money is a language the jury has power to talk in.

An additional disposition, fully justified by the judge and jury's rulings as strongly supported by the Appeals Court panel, would be for the City Manager's employers, the Cambridge City Council to terminate the City Manager based on the legally binding findings in this case. Such action would communicate the City Council's support for Civil Rights in general and, in particular, support for the civil rights of the employees of the City of Cambridge.

Silence by the Cambridge City Council sends a different but also very clear message. A major part of the message of silence is that the City Council is not persuaded to protect its employees by the penal and real damages even after such a strikingly strong statement by the Appeals Court. That silence also says a lot about the City Council's real opinion on Civil Rights.

Just as the jury is limited to money damages by which it can communicate, the most important way the Cambridge City Council can communicate is by the power to hire and fire. This, of course, would come in the face of such strong and legally binding actions, and strong language both at superior and appeals courts.

2. What are the details on the earlier jury on discrimination put into context with the successful retaliation claim?

Response by editor:

The reality is that the retaliation claim and the original discrimination action are related but strikingly different.

The original discrimination action made the political statement that five plaintiffs were being discriminated against, at minimum, on the basis of their gender.

Two plaintiffs settled, handsomely. Two plaintiffs have yet to be heard. The final superior court hearing preparatory to the case is scheduled for September 14 at 2 pm in the Superior Courthouse.

Monteiro lost the discrimination claim and won the retaliation claim.

The retaliation action is based on bindingly proved really rotten behavior.

The issue for the voters, if the City Manager is not fired, is what do the voters think of a City Council which has no problems with such behavior.

3. Did Healy have the decision making power not to pursue a further appeal? If so, what does that say about the role of the City Council?

Response by editor:

I researched this matter at the time of the Appeals Court appeal. I should think that appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court would be comparable.

The City Manager has the power to further appeal. The City Council has the power to refuse to pay for the appeal. The City Council also has the power to hire and fire. I should think the City Council would be well within their rights to fire the City Manager for improperly further appealing, and to anticipate that his replacement, noting the reasons for the firing, would reverse the appeal.

The silence of the City Council after Friday’s hearing gives the impression that the City Council is waiving their strongest tactic to discipline the City Manager: settlement including firing him based on the case, with consent of the Superior Court judge.

Questions by:

Archie Mazmanian