Town Spent Nearly $6000 To Investigate Hingham Firefighters And TBL Flag
Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, October 1, 2020
Hingham Current file photo / Kristen Arute
Regina Ryan of Discrimination and Harassment Solutions (DHS) in West Falmouth was hired by the Town of Hingham to investigate any potential wrongdoing on the part of firefighters in Local 2398 for their failure to immediately remove a Thin Blue Line flag from the back of a fire truck. In a letter dated August 5, 2020 and addressed to Fire Chief Steve Murphy, Ryan said that “DHS is pleased to have the opportunity to conduct an investigation for the Town of Hingham.”
The order to remove the flag, which was given by Murphy on July 22nd, did not contain a deadline. However, the flag was taken down one week later due to pressure from the Board of Selectmen. Firefighters said that the flag was flown to honor Weymouth police officer Sgt. Michael Chesna on the second anniversary of his death and to show support for their colleagues on the police force. Sgt. Chesna was killed in the line of duty on July 15, 2018. Members of the Hingham Police Department had been called to the scene.
The contract with Ryan that was signed by Town Administrator Tom Mayo outlined the terms of service. “DHS will provide the Town of Hingham the following services,” it said. “Regina Ryan will interview all necessary witnesses, review all relevant documentation, and prepare a comprehensive investigative report.” An invoice dated September 3, 2020 showed that 22 hours of work were billed at $250 per hour and 1.8 hours of travel were billed at $150 per hour totaling $5725.
However, the Town will not be releasing the results of that investigation citing an exemption due to it being a personnel matter. “The Town reserves the right to withhold and/or redact any records that qualify for an exemption from the Public Records Law,” said Mayo in a letter to Hingham resident Dan Nardo. Nardo is challenging that decision.
In August, the Selectmen decided to tackle a flag policy for the town. The deadline for comments was originally set for September 15th, and the Selectmen were going to take the issue up at the end of September. However, there has been no mention of it since the first meeting, and requests for information have gone unanswered.