A final price tag has been set on the city of Worcester’s years-long campaign to withhold public records pertaining to police misconduct from the Telegram & Gazette, the city’s daily paper, and its reporter Brad Petrishen. Open government watchdog Andrew Quemere writes that the T&G and the city reached a settlement in February for $180,000 to cover most of the paper’s legal fees plus $5,000 in punitive damages.
Last summer I gave former Worcester city manager Edward Augustus a New England Muzzle Award, published by GBH News, for leading the effort to keep residents of his city in the dark about what their police department was up to. District Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker awarded the T&G $101,000 in legal fees in addition to the punitive damages, ruling that such a harsh penalty was justified because the city had misrepresented aspects of the case in its dealings with the court.
Not harsh enough, as it turned out. The T&G’s lawyer, Jeffrey Pyle, appealed Kenton-Walker’s ruling, arguing that the paper’s legal fees of $217,000 should have been covered in their entirety given the city’s misconduct. The state Appeals Court agreed, overturning Kenton-Walker. That led to the February settlement.
“The Telegram & Gazette spent more than three years fighting for the right to have access to documents of considerable public interest,” T&G executive editor Michael McDermott was quoted as saying in Quemere’s post. “I’m proud of reporter Brad Petrishen for pursuing these records and thankful to our lawyers for successfully defending the public’s right to know.”
And, finally, my disclosure: David Nordman, who was the T&G’s editor until this past summer, is now a colleague of mine at Northeastern. We work on opposite sides of the campus, literally and figuratively: he’s the executive editor of Northeastern Global News, part of the university’s communications operation, and I’m a faculty member at the School of Journalism.