Former Lynn Comptroller and one time interim Chief Financial Officer John Pace got the verdict he was looking for last week in his lawsuit against the city of Lynn, after a Superior Court jury found that his 2011 firing but former Lynn CFO Richard Fortucci was for “A spiteful, malignant purpose unrelated to the legitimate interests of the city of Lynn.”
The verdict followed a five-day trial, during which Mayor Judith Flangan Kennedy, Pace and Fortucci testified about the events leading up to the firing.
Pace, who claimed the city violated the Whistleblower Protection Act by firing, testified that he believes he was fired because of his testimony against Fortucci, in January 2011, when Mayor Kennedy removed Fortucci from his position as CFO, because of dereliction of duty.
Following Fortucci’s 2011 removal from his post, Pace was appointed by the mayor to be the interim CFO, but the appointment lasted only a few weeks, as the City Council moved to reinstate Fortucci in February of the same year, and Pace was once again made the Comptroller.
However, Pace continued to authorize payments to himself for the interim CFO position into May.
When Fortucci learned of the payments in May, amounting to a total of $2,839.76, Pace was sent before a disciplinary hearing that authorized Fortucci to fire Pace for the overpayments to himself.
However, the most damaging testimony to the city’s case, may have come from Mayor Kennedy, who said that she had thought a deal had been worked out between her office and the CFO to allow Pace to pay the overpayment back to the city.
Kennedy testified that she was “surprised” when she later was informed of the firing.
According to the city’s outside legal counsel in the case, Thomas Dreschler, the city ios weighing appeal options.
Pace’s attorney, Harold Lichten, said following the trial that he feels it is likely that the judge will triple the damages if Pace, as expected, asks for the award to be increased.
The jury award includes $352,000 in lost wages spanning the time period from his firing date to his anticipated 2017 retirement date, $360,000 for pension benefits Pace would have received from 2018 to 2032 had he not been fired and $250,000 for “emotional distress.”
“We’re going to discuss it in detail. We will talk about next steps,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.