SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 24, 2013

Ex-state worker sues Patrick

Former Parole Board member claims she was forced to resign

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — A former member of the state Parole Board from Salem has filed suit against Gov. Deval Patrick and his former chief of staff, saying she was improperly forced out of her job in a highly publicized housecleaning that came weeks after a parolee shot and killed a Woburn police officer.

Pamela Lombardini was one of the Parole Board members who voted in 2008 to release Dominic Cinelli, the man who went on to shoot and kill Woburn police officer John Maguire on the day after Christmas 2010. Cinelli also died in the shoot-out with police.

Amid a public outcry over the decision to parole Cinelli, Patrick demanded the resignations of all six of the Parole Board members who had been on the panel that voted to release Cinelli in 2008.

Lombardini and her attorney, William Sheehan, contend in the suit that while waiting for a scheduled meeting in January 2011 with then Public Safety Secretary Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, a state trooper, who was carrying photos of the members, approached each of the board members, asked them to remain in their offices and then returned to ask if any were armed.

Lombardini said she was subsequently ushered by a trooper into a conference room with the other board members, where William “Mo” Cowan, Patrick’s then-chief of staff, stood at the head of the table and demanded that the members sign letters of resignation already drafted for them.

She also alleges that board members were threatened that if they did not sign the resignation letter, “it would get ugly.”

Lombardini’s suit claims that in the weeks between the shooting and her resignation, she “and other members of the board were assured repeatedly that they had the full support of the governor and the (Executive Office of Public Safety and Security), that they had done nothing wrong and that they had nothing to fear from the investigation.”

The suit, filed late Friday in Salem Superior Court, goes on to say that an investigation “found no specific error” by the board, only “inadequate supervision of Cinelli by his parole officer, who was fired but later won his job back in an arbitration proceeding, according to the complaint.

The suit is seeking at least $350,000 in damages for lost wages, as well as an additional amount, to be determined by a jury, for wrongful termination, violation of her civil rights, and conspiracy by Patrick and Cowan.

A spokeswoman for the governor’s office said they would have no comment on the suit.

Lombardini was a former state and federal court probation officer when she was first tapped by Gov. Mitt Romney to fill a seat on the board in 2007; she was reappointed by Patrick in 2009.

She was also active in Salem public affairs, serving on the city’s Planning Board.

Cinelli was a career criminal who was serving concurrent life sentences. The board had first voted in 2005 to deny parole to Cinelli but unanimously granted parole three years later.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.