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Officer still awaiting his day in court

Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil | 2/22/2011, 6:28 p.m.
Former court officer Thomas Flint stands in front of his old workplace, the South Boston Courthouse. The Roxbury native worked for the Massachusetts trial court for more than 20 years until he was fired in September 2009. Flint has filed a claim with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and awaits the results of their investigation. Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil

After 20 years as a Massachusetts court officer, Thomas Flint is still waiting for his own day in court.

The 43-year-old Roxbury native served as a court officer for more than two decades until he was abruptly fired in November 2009. Suspecting foul play and racial discrimination, Flint filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), but nearly a year- and-a-half later, Flint said he has yet to find justice.

Flint’s termination was based on a junior court officer’s accusation that Flint verbally assaulted him in a back room of the South Boston Courthouse. “He then raised his voice and began to rant,” the accuser, John Donahue, wrote in a letter to Chief Court Officer Joseph Casey. During this period, of about 30 to 45 minutes, he made various accusations and numerous personal attacks.”

Flint insists that no altercation took place. The South Boston Courthouse, he points out, is small with thin walls, and, as a result, any angry exchange could easily be heard by anyone in the building. But no witnesses corroborate Donohue’s accusations. Even the presiding judge, who was seated on his bench about 15 feet from where the incident allegedly took place, never indicated that he heard anything.

A few days after the accusations were filed in September 2009, Leslie Lewis, regional director of security, met with the South Boston court employees and the presiding judge, Michael Bolden. According to Flint, the judge and court clerk told Lewis they heard nothing. With no witnesses or evidence to substantiate Donohue’s claims, Lewis determined that it was simply a personality conflict and laid the issue to rest.

But a month later, Director of Security Thomas Connolly decided to resurrect the issue by conducting a disciplinary hearing. At this hearing, the only witness called was Donohue — the accuser. No one from Flint’s witness list was questioned. Based on this, Connolly concluded, “I credit Court Officer Donohue’s version of the incident” and “discredit your [Flint’s] version of the incident.” Flint was immediately fired.

On the disciplinary hearing, Flint’s lawyer, James Dilday, said, “I thought it was just totally out of line because he [Connolly] didn’t even talk to anyone.” Dilday said he believes Flint’s hearing was not conducted in “fair or impartial manner.” If it were, Dilday argued, Connolly would have spoken to Judge Bolden as a witness.

In his 20-year career as a court officer, Flint developed a reputation for being a hard worker. Former chief court officer Peter Cordeiro, one of Flint’s superiors during his brief tenure at a Quincy court, said that he never had problems with Flint.

“He was a very good court officer,” he said, and noted that he was “always at work on time,” “knowledgeable,” and “neatly dressed.” As his superior, Cordeiro had to write a performance report on Flint, and said that he gave him a good rating. “He did his job, he did it well.”

Janet Eliasson, a treatment coordinator for the courts, worked with Flint in South Boston. Eliasson called Flint a “very good worker” who “always did his job,” even “more than what he was asked to do.” She also commented that he was a “very nice guy” and “very educated.”