Alleging that the attorney for a man who accused Worcester police officers of brutality violated a confidentiality clause in the settlement, the city of Worcester is filing a motion to reopen the case.
Included in a settlement between Worcester and the plaintiff was an agreement that limited what the plaintiff could say to the press. E-mail exchanges from the negotiations paraphrase the agreement: “Plaintiff will have to agree to confidentiality – no contact or comment with the press. … Basically, this is to avoid a press conference, newspaper article, etc., dealing with the merits of the case or the amount of the settlement. … You can certainly say that the case was settled, but you and your client cannot then proceed to ‘badmouth’ the city and the police, etc. That is part of the consideration for the City for paying such a settlement. There is no admission of liability or wrongdoing.”
Surprising the city were comments made by the plaintiff’s attorney Michael L. Tumposky of Hedges & Tumposky in Boston, which appeared in the March 3rd edition of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette. In the newspaper, Tumposky stated that the case in question was “an egregious case because it involved the use of a weapon that resulted in significant injury. … I think it reflected poor judgment on the part of the officers involved and poor training.”
Worcester now wants the case reopened, the settlement money returned and sanctions issued. It claims that Tumposky violated the settlement’s confidentiality clause, which barred both the plaintiff and his attorney from discussing or disclosing “anything whatsoever related to this action of the terms of this settlement, aside from the sole fact that the matter is settled.”
Tumposky has filed a motion opposing the reopening of the case. He says his “interpretation was that I was operating within the agreement as long as I didn’t discuss the terms of the settlement or disclose facts that weren’t already public.”
Tumposky also argues that the settlement term at issue is unenforceable because a government entity cannot impose “a content-based restriction on speech in violation of the First Amendment” and that the comments made to the Telegram & Gazette piece did not disclose any facts about the case “other than what was already in the public domain.”
“A municipality stands on different footing than a private entity where confidentiality can be negotiated,” Tumposky stated to the publication Lawyers Weekly. “For a city to be wary of any public comment on a public matter concerning their employees is extremely troubling.”
The initial settlement agreement had Worcester paying the plaintiff $47,500. The lawsuit stemmed from an altercation between the plaintiff and police officers working a paid detail at a nightclub.
-Attorney John J. MacLaughlan