Electrician Still Fighting with City over Settlement in Massachusetts

Electrician Still Fighting with City over Settlement in Massachusetts

The city has offered to pay $245,551 for lost wages, but Comeau says he should be paid an additional $222,000 in interest and retirement costs.

A former city electrician who was fired illegally in 2003 has filed a complaint for civil contempt against the city in Superior Court, saying the city has refused to pay him what he is owed.

An Appeals Court had upheld a finding that the former Beverly, Mass., city electrician was illegally fired. He was suspended without pay for five days for what the then mayor called “insubordination” and “harassing another employee," according to a report from The Salem News.

The city has offered to pay $245,551 for lost wages, but Comeau says he should be paid an additional $222,000 in interest and retirement costs, The Salem News reported last week.

In 2012, an arbitrator ruled that the firing was illegal and ordered that Comeau be paid $245,551 in back pay, health insurance and sick leave. The case spent the next three years in appeals. The city asked the state Supreme Judicial Court to review the case, but that request was denied on March 2, presumably ending the long legal fight. Now the two sides are arguing over how much Comeau should be paid.

Comeau’s attorney said the city should pay for the retirement contributions, with interest, and also pay interest on the back pay from the date of the arbitrator’s decision. But the city, in a court filing, said interest “does not generally apply” to arbitration awards. Even if interest is paid, it should not kick in until the final Appeals Court ruling in December of 2014, the city said.

The case was due to be heard in Superior Court on June 25.

When Comeau was working for the city, he made note in a report that the city’s electrical inspector refused to help him with a particular job involving a fire alarm system. The city’s human resources director at the time complained that Comeau had “allowed our dirty laundry to become public,” and imposed the suspension. Then, a month later, the Salem News reported, the mayor and his HR director went further, demanding that Comeau apologize in writing, retract his comments, and provide copies of both to the City Council. When Comeau refused, he was fired.

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