Friday, July 13, 2012

Mass.Town Won't Disclose Discrimination Suit Settlement Terms to Newspaper

West Bridgewater Town Hall, West Bridgewater, ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The (Brockton, Mass.) Enterprise will look to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to obtain the release of the terms of a settlement agreement involving a discrimination suit brought by a police officer against the town of West Bridgewater, reports.

Forty-eight-year-old Thomas Richmond, a full-time West Bridgewater police officer, sued the town in federal court in 2010, alleging disability discrimination, defamation and emotional distress, among other claims. The parties reached a settlement in December 2011, of the suit against the town, its police chief and two other supervisory officers.

The town's administrator would not disclose the lump sum amount paid to Richmond in response to a request from the daily, citing an agreement between the plaintiff and the municipality's insurance company. Likewise, Richmond's counsel would not disclose the sum to the Enterprise, noting he was bound by a confidentiality agreement.

Nondisclosure provisions are commonplace in settlement agreements, but that doesn't change the nature of the underlying claim.  When such an agreement involves a public employee, the agreement is a public record, subject to the Commonwealth's Public Records Law (M.G.L. c. 66, sec. 10). "TUOL" will be surprised if the Commonwealth rules otherwise.
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