MCAD rules 'probable cause' in court case

Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil | 1/11/2012, 8:02 a.m.
Former court officer Thomas Flint stands in front of his old workplace, the South Boston Courthouse. The Roxbury native...
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. Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil

Good things come to those who wait. After two excruciating years, former court officer Thomas Flint finally received the news — a ruling of “probable cause” in his racial discrimination case.

The 44-year-old Roxbury native had served as a Massachusetts court officer for more than two decades until he was abruptly fired in November 2009.

Suspecting racial discrimination, Flint immediately filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), and on Christmas Eve 2011, received notification, “a finding of probable cause is hereby entered for Flint’s race discrimination claims against the Massachusetts Trial Court.”

Flint’s 2009 termination was based on a white junior court officer’s allegation 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 and has thin walls, so such an exchange would have easily been heard by anyone in the building.

But no witnesses corroborate Donahue’s accusations. Moreover, the presiding judge, who was seated on his bench about 15 feet from where the alleged incident took place, said he never heard anything.

At his disciplinary hearing about a month later, only one witness was called — Donohue, the accuser. No one from Flint’s witness list was questioned, but Director of Security Thomas 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.

“The basis is that if the white person said it, then it must be true,” Flint’s lawyer, James Dilday, wrote in one of his many correspondences with the MCAD. “And that was a plantation mentality that was exercised by Mr. Connolly.”

Flint grew up in Orchard Park, Roxbury, and at the age of 13, lost his 15-year-old brother, James, to violence. He graduated from South Boston High School and completed a year of college at Northeastern University before dropping out in order to work and support his young son.

Flint now has two sons, ages 21 and 24, and a 4-year-old granddaughter and a 1-month-old grandson.

Flint filed his complaint immediately after his termination, and even when it became clear to him that the MCAD was dragging their heels, he refused to give up.

“I think he did the manly thing to do, and he fought and went up against the system,” his mother, Sarah Flint, said. “Still, it’s been really hard for him. Losing a job is like losing a life,” she went on, explaining that her son went through many of the same emotions as when his older brother was killed.

After his termination, Flint was unable to find work and relied on unemployment checks and family assistance.

Flint tried to gather community support around his case, and appeared in the Banner in February 2011 and Touch 106.1 FM a few months later. He also appealed to several local politicians and the NAACP.