Hingham suspends private investigation contracts ordered over Blue Line flag controversy

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HINGHAM – Hingham officials are withholding contracts, invoices and other financial documents related to the private inquiries they commissioned following the ‘blue line’ flag controversy and a vote of no confidence by the union firefighters versus the fire chief.

City Administrator Tom Mayo and Deputy City Administrator Michelle Monsegur did not respond to multiple requests for comment or respond to questions about who is being investigated, why or how much investigations are costing to the city.

The Patriot Ledger has asked the city for contracts, invoices, other financial documents and investigative reports related to what officials confirmed to be an investigation by Regina Ryan and her company Discrimination and Harassment Solutions. Hingham resident Daniel Nardo, who runs a consultancy firm, has also requested a similar set of documents.

Monségur rejected Nardo’s request, but confirmed the existence of such records. She said the request was denied under the law enforcement investigation exemption, which allows files to be withheld if their disclosure “interferes with the possibility of effective law enforcement.” .

In the letter, Monségur said that “this matter is being investigated” by Ryan and that the city will withhold “all documents” relating to it.

On September 16, the state archives supervisor rejected Monsegur’s denial of Nardo’s registration application and on the same day Mayo rejected the Patriot Ledger, citing the same reasoning. An appeal is pending.

“This is nothing more than another attempt to obstruct the disclosure of public documents and the truth by city officials who use our tax money to conduct secret investigations,” Nardo said in a statement. Press.

Mayo and Monsegur cited the police exemption from investigation as a basis for retaining anything relating to private investigations.

First Amendment and media law attorney Jeff Pyle said the law enforcement investigation exemption can only be used for that – law enforcement.

Pyle said exemptions from the Public Records Act are meant to be interpreted narrowly. Regarding the investigation exemption, he says it applies to records compiled for the purpose of investigation and, if disclosed, “would so undermine the possibility of effective law enforcement. that such disclosure would not be in the public interest ”.

“They have to explain why this investigation has something to do with law enforcement,” Pyle said. “Obviously, this is not a criminal investigation. What is it? It will be their burden.”

The city-commissioned investigation appears to be linked to the fine-grained Blue Line controversy, which also led the firefighters’ union to send an unsigned letter to the board of directors outlining their vote of no confidence in Fire Chief Steve Murphy .

In July, a resident emailed selection men to request that the thin blue flags be removed from the city’s fire trucks. The email cited an informal city practice of not posting political messages on city properties and highlighted the flag’s association with white supremacist groups. Murphy, along with Mayo and then Police Chief Glenn Olsson, agreed the flags should be removed. Firefighters eventually withdrew the flags, but only after a controversial public battle with city and department leaders.

The union said at the time flags were hoisted on trucks to honor police officers killed on the job, in particular Sergeant Michael Chesna, a Weymouth policeman killed on duty in 2018. The police flag was a flash point on the South Shore.

Wicked Local reporter Audrey Cooney contributed to this report. Journalist Wheeler Cowperthwaite can be contacted at [email protected]

Local law enforcement supporters gathered in Hingham to show their support for the police on Sunday August 16, 2020 Greg Derr / The Patriot Ledger
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