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Dracut Discrimination Complaint Nixed by State Commission

December 25, 2018

DRACUT -- The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has dismissed a former maintenance custodian’s complaint against the town that alleged discrimination based on his arrest record.

But that custodian’s attorney said he wasn’t surprised by the decision, and now plans to file a lawsuit in superior court.

In its dismissal and notification of rights, the commission found a lack of probable cause for Paul F. Murphy’s claim of discrimination.

The town, on Feb. 10, 2017, fired Murphy, a maintenance custodian at the Dracut Police Department since March 2010, after then-Police Chief Neil Ouellette found Murphy’s employment application with a CORI report. This report showed that Murphy was charged with 15 crimes between November 1978 and September 1996, according to an investigative disposition provided by Town Manager Jim Duggan to The Sun.

Murphy alleges that his initial application contained questions that impermissibly inquired into his criminal history. Regardless, he answered truthfully and the town hired him, according to the report. Murphy’s criminal record at the time included no felonies or any convictions in the previous five years.

The town asserts that Murphy indicated on his employment application that he had never been convicted of a crime. In 2017, Ouellette was cleaning a drawer when he came across Murphy’s application, which contained the CORI report. According to the disposition, Ouellette contacted the state Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which counseled that, given the convictions, Murphy should not have unescorted access to secure areas of the police department.

On Jan. 3, 2017, Murphy met with Ouellette, who informed him that he was no longer allowed access to the police department. The police chief then placed Murphy on paid administrative leave and asked him to submit to a new background check which confirmed Murphy’s convictions, according to the report.

On Feb. 10, Murphy met with Ouellette and Town Manager Jim Duggan, both of whom suggested that he resign in lieu of discharge because he could no longer work in the police department. Duggan discussed the option for Murphy to apply for a position with the town’s Department of Public Works, according to the report. Murphy asked if he could think about it over the weekend, but was refused.

Jeremy Silverfine, an attorney with Brody, Hardoon, Perkins and Kesten which represented Dracut, said he thinks the commission made the correct decision.

Murphy’s attorney, Kevin G. Powers, and Duggan expressed no surprise at the decision.

“I feel that we took corrective action based upon when we discovered his application and his CORI background examination,” Duggan said. “It’s in the best interest of the town with confidential information that we took this action.”

“I had no confidence that the MCAD would do the right thing and issue a probable cause because in 86 percent of the cases they issue a lack of probable cause, but you have to file with the MCAD before you file suit,” said Powers on Wednesday. “Before we received the LOPC (lack of probable cause), I notified Dracut’s attorney that if we could not resolve the case, I would be pulling it out of the MACD and filing it in Superior Court, and I will be doing that.”

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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