By Katina Caraganis
SHIRLEY — An attorney representing the town has ruled that the documents involved in the investigation of alleged officer misconduct cannot be released to the public because he believes they are exempt under state law.
Last month, selectmen overturned a ruling by Police Chief Greg Massak to suspend Sgt. Alfreda Cromwell for three days without pay. Cromwell had been accused of misconduct at a Lunenburg restaurant in April while she was off duty.
Selectmen said the chief received an anonymous complaint alleging that Cromwell was at Sean Patrick’s Restaurant in Lunenburg wearing her uniform pants, with her department-issued gun and badge in plain sight.
The suspension, which was served, was grieved to the union, which brought it to the chief, who denied the grievance. The union then brought it before the Board of Selectmen, which overturned the chief’s decision and ordered that Cromwell be paid for the days she served the suspension. Her record was also cleared.
The department has no policy on officers not being allowed to wear their department-issued uniforms in public while off duty.
Worcester-based attorney Greg Brackett, of Brackett & Lucas, said the investigation conducted by Massak was initiated by an anonymous call and not by a formal citizen’s complaint, and did not involve any specific interaction between Cromwell and a member of the public.
“While the investigation was conducted internally by the Shirley Police Department,
at the direction of Chief Massak, it does not qualify as an internal-affairs investigation,” Brackett wrote in his decision.
In Brackett’s opinion, the information gathered during the investigation is part of Cromwell’s personnel files, the “disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy to the employee in question.”
Brackett said because of that, the records in question are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Mass. General Law.
MediaNews has filed two formal complaints with the state’s keeper of records, alleging that without the anonymous phone call Massak received, the investigation would never have happened, so the documents should be released, and that Brackett failed to provide his legal opinion within the appropriate window of time as laid out in state law.
Chief Massak is currently out on family medical leave, and Cromwell has been appointed acting chief in his absence. Attempts to reach her Tuesday for comment were not immediately returned.