Cambridge food inspectors alone in lacking power to fine

By Gal Tziperman Lotan

Upstairs on the Square

The co-proprietor of Upstairs on the Square, an oft-praised Harvard Square restaurant, says she appreciates food inspectors’ persistence in doing their jobs, even when the restaurant’s diligence fails and they find violations. (Photo: Gal Tziperman Lotan)

Mary Cleavers, a city food inspector, walked into Upstairs on the Square, the oft-praised Harvard Square restaurant, for a routine inspection Nov. 17. She passed the dining room, with its animal print carpets and menus featuring such dishes as $28 pork loin and $32 charcoal-grilled sirloin, and entered the kitchen.

There she found drain flies, dirty floors, wet clutter on the bar floor and a bowl of rusty water under the sink, according to inspection reports obtained by Cambridge Day. None of these violations are classified as “critical” by the city’s inspectional standards — not like, say, expired food or cooks touching food with bare, unwashed hands. But the restaurant still needed to correct them to comply with the state Food Code.

Cleavers noted the violations in her report and submitted copies to the restaurant and the city’s Inspectional Services Department. Three days later, she returned for a re-inspection and found that not only were the violations unremedied, but three new minor ones had sprung up. It took a third visit, on Dec. 7, for the violations to be corrected.

Mary-Catherine Deibel, the restaurant’s co-proprietor, did not contest the inspector’s findings, and in fact said she appreciated that inspectors were persistent in how they do their jobs. “We try to be very clean,” she said in an interview. “But it’s a busy restaurant. We’re almost like a small hotel — though that’s no excuse … It should be swept, and it should be perfect all the time. That is what we aim for as owners. Over 30 years, we’ve had a really good record.”

Faced with repeat offenses, the three restaurant inspectors charged with making sure the city’s 630 eating establishments are up to code have only one weapon to force improvements: threatening to revoke a restaurant’s permit for an afternoon, a day or as long as it takes to fix the problems.

The added sanction of recommending fines against problem restaurants, which is available to food inspectors in all neighboring communities, doesn’t exist in Cambridge.

And Cambridge inspectors rarely, if ever, shutter restaurants, according to Kristen Fernandes, a Cambridge food inspector for 10 years. Fernandes said she could not recall any forced shutdowns mandated by Inspectional Services during her years on the job. Boston, by comparison, has temporarily suspended 275 permits since 2008.

It isn’t just that Cambridge inspectors have fewer sanctions. There are comparatively fewer of them to handle the workload. Fernandes and her two colleagues inspect 630 establishments every six months — about 210 per person — a heavier burden than that of inspectors in surrounding cities. Watertown’s inspectors, who also deal with housing, nuisance and other complaints, inspect just 57 restaurants every six months. In Newton, each inspector visits 133 restaurants twice a year. Even in Boston, where inspectors have 3,500 establishments to worry about, the individual burden is lower — 194 twice a year.

Fees to get a restaurant permit in Cambridge are significantly lower than in Boston: Cambridge eateries must pay Inspectional Services just $25 a year ($50 if the restaurant serves alcohol) plus 75 cents per seat. Across the river, restaurants pay Boston’s Inspectional Services Department $200 a year, plus another dollar for every seat over 100 seats. Boston restaurants that offer takeout must fork over an additional $200 to $1,200 a year — the more money a restaurant makes, the higher the fee.

Charging higher fees could allow Cambridge to hire more inspectors, but would not give these inspectors more power when dealing with repeat offenders.

Officials are noncommital

Cambridge city officials who oversee Inspectional Services were noncommittal on the need to beef up the number and resources of food inspectors. Inspectional Services Commissioner Ranjit Singanayagam referred questions to City Manager Robert W. Healy Jr., who sent them to the city’s Law Department. Two and a half weeks after the initial inquiry, Singanayagam e-mailed a brief statement suggesting the city would study the issue of allowing inspectors to fine problem restaurants.

“The city is always interested in exploring practices that may help to improve compliance with regulations or ordinances,” he said. “We will review the possible alternative enforcement method you have referenced and after review appropriate recommendations will be made as necessary to appropriate city officials. We will have no further comment until our review is completed.”

Mayor David Maher could propose that the City Council take the matter up officially, but Lee Gianetti, his chief of staff, said Maher wouldn’t make a decision until Inspectional Services drafted legislation. “The concept looks interesting for our perspective,” Gianetti said. “Once they have something concrete, we’ll comment on it.”

Under state law, inspectors must visit each food establishments once every six months for routine inspection, then return for re-inspections a few days to one week later until all violations are resolved. It is left to individual cities and towns to decide whether to issue fines or suspensions for restaurants that fail to maintain clean and sanitary conditions.

Ignoring repeat complaints

“Normally a good thing to do with them is to just sit them down for a hearing, bring in all the key players and have everybody sit down and talk about it, talk about why things are not getting taken care of when you’ve asked for them to be taken care of,” Fernandes said. “Usually that scares them enough.”

Still, some restaurants, even the best-regarded, can ignore inspectors’ repeat complaints, according to a review of three years of inspection documents for several upscale restaurants obtained by Cambridge Day. Three years ago, inspector Bernard “Buddy” Packer found no screen door between the dish room and trash bin area at Harvest, a renowned upscale restaurant on Brattle Street. With no screen door, insects and other unwelcome critters could saunter into the kitchen. A door had to be installed to keep the restaurant up to code, Packer wrote in his report.

Packer came back for a re-inspection, then another. There was still no screen door in the dish room, according to inspection reports. The restaurant’s management said there was a door on order Oct. 2, 2008, and the restaurant passed inspection — but on the next inspection, April 28, 2009, there was again no screen door to be found. General Manager Peter Baker declined to comment and referred Cambridge Day to Paul Dias, senior vice president of operations at American Food Management, which owns several well-regarded restaurants in Boston and Cambridge. Dias did not return multiple calls for comment.

Over the past three years, inspectors also cited Harvest for four instances of missing refrigerator thermometers and four accounts of allowing cooks and food handlers to wear jewelry or watches — violations of the Food Code that, while not severe enough to shut down the restaurant, can still put patrons at risk of food-borne illness.

Wielding a ticket book

That’s why Fernandes and other inspectors would like the power to fine repeat offenders. Inspectors in Belmont, Newton, Watertown, and Brookline all have the power to impose fines and do so regularly.

The fines won’t solve any budget woes: They typically bring only about $1,000 to $2,000 a year into towns’ general funds. Still, when an inspector comes in wielding a ticket book, restaurant managers tend to pay more attention, said Patrick Maloney, Brookline’s assistant director of public health. Maloney said his inspectors can fine offenders $50 per violation per visit. They only use that power, however, for chronic code violators.

“What it’s useful for are stubborn issues, like food that’s left at the counter unprotected, keeping doors open that would allow flies and pests to come in to the establishment, or any other thing that the inspector would feel they’ve cited a restaurant for multiple times,” Maloney said.

Bad repeat offenders can also get permit surcharges, where the cost of their permit goes up the more they offend. Brookline inspectors can levy these surcharges when they’ve received valid food illness complaints. Belmont uses the same method.

“It’s like driving infractions. Let’s say you’re in a lot of accidents, your insurance costs go up,” Maloney said. “If you’re not keeping your establishment clean, we’re burning more energy on you … so your permit will cost more.”

View the restaurant inspection reports for Upstairs on the Square and Harvest.

This story was produced through the Watchdog New England-Cambridge Day partnership. View the original story on Cambridge Day’s website.

Cambridge skirted law on school food service inspections

At the King Open School, inspectors found animal droppings in storage areas.

By Rachel Zarrell and Gal Tziperman Lotan

The city’s Inspectional Services Department has been checking public schools for health code violations only half as frequently as state law requires even though official visits have regularly found violations such as rodent droppings, fruit flies and trash bins left open.

Although state law requires inspections of school cafeterias at least once every six months, for the past three years the department has been inspecting those in the city public schools just once a school year, according to a review of records by Cambridge Day.

Those records showed that shortcomings found by inspectors were generally minor and fixed in follow-up visits but sometimes found again in the next annual inspection.

Ranjit Singanayagam, Cambridge Inspectional Services commissioner, said he was unaware that his department had been failing to inspect the public schools’ cafeterias once every six months until reporters brought it to his attention. He said department inspectors would immediately begin making official visits to the school cafeterias every six months, as required by state law.

With more than 5,600 students, Cambridge’s school system consists of 12 elementary schools, one high school, Cambridge Rindge & Latin, and a small high school extension program. A review of official reports filed from the schools by department inspectors between 2008-10 uncovered such deficiencies as:

  • For three years running, the John M. Tobin School had a broken or missing trash bin behind the cafeteria.
  • Animal droppings were found in the storage rooms of the Andrew Peabody and King Open schools.
  • The Graham & Parks School had the wrong temperature on its walk-in freezer, which employees left open.
  • The Cambridgeport School was cited as having items stored on or around a kitchen grease trap.
  • At the Fletcher Maynard Academy, a lack of sanitizer was noted two years in a row in April 2008 and March 2009, taking two re-inspections each time before the problem was fixed.
  • The floor in the Kennedy-Longfellow School’s freezer was rusted and rotting, and the insulation was coming off pipes near cooking equipment.
  • A Daniel A. Haggerty School industrial stove was overdue for inspection, according to an expiration sticker on its hood.
  • The Cambridge Rindge & Latin high school was cited for having fruit flies around the sinks.

Singanayagam classified the violations as “nonmajor” and “noncritical.”  None was bad enough to shut down a cafeteria, as inspectors have the power to do in extremely unsanitary kitchens, he said.

“Any violation is dealt with serious concern,” he said. “We don’t just let it go because it’s a minor violation.”

John J. Mingle, director of food services for Cambridge Public Schools, said that as part of his job he visits all public school cafeterias constantly to make sure sanitary and food-preparation standards are followed. But state law says that’s the role of the city’s Inspectional Services Department — and, as Singanayagam said, inspectors believed they were complying with the law by visiting cafeterias once during the school months and again during the summer, when summer camp programs are run out of the schools.

The summer inspections are necessary, Singanayagam said, but he acknowledged that counting them as a full school year inspection skirted the state requirement — modeled after provisions of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 1999 federal food code. The food served during the summer is supplied by an outside vendor, not school employees, and is usually sandwiches and snacks, not hot meals prepared in cafeteria kitchens.

From now on, all Cambridge public school cafeterias and kitchens would be inspected under the same twice-a-year schedule mandated for restaurants and caterers in the city, Singanayagam said.

Mingle said he always thought re-inspections counted as the second one, and said he had no qualms with the failure to do a second inspection during the school year because the problems found in Cambridge’s schools are usually minor.

“They generally only find a dusty vent or a loose dripping — small stuff,” he said.

Kristen Fernandes, one of the three Cambridge sanitation inspectors, said she has never found a serious problem involving the freshness or preparation of food in a school cafeteria. “There are things that need to be corrected, but it’s never been anything about the food,” she said. “[Cafeteria workers] are very careful with what they do. … I’ve never, ever had a complaint from a parent who said that ‘my kid got sick’ in the 10 years that I’ve been here.”

In Cambridge, inspectors check for everything from how fresh the food is to prep-surface cleanliness and the knowledge of the person in charge of operations. Since the City Council passed a ban on trans fats, which went into effect July 2009, inspectors have also checked for artificial fat in the food, again finding no violations. Inspectors have routinely seen only problems with the cleanliness of kitchens and storage areas.

According to current Centers for Disease Control estimates, 48 million Americans come down with food-borne illness every year — down 20 percent from 1999. Most of the cases are mild, but 3,000 Americans die and 128,000 are hospitalized.

The need for twice-yearly inspections was underscored by Suzanne K. Condon, director of the state Bureau for Environmental Health. “You’re dealing with a population of children, who tend to be more vulnerable to food-borne illnesses. We would want to see school cafeterias inspected with regularity,” she said in an interview.

The students are more vulnerable to food-borne illnesses because “with kids, the rate of hand-washing is not as frequent as it should be. Diarrhea carries more risks when contracted by children. And in many schools, the food is often cooked off-site and transported to the school, and that creates more risk,” Condon said.

The size of Cambridge’s cafeterias may have played a role in sparing the city from the problems found recently at Boston Public Schools, where food was being routinely served to students long after it expired.

Cambridge school cafeterias keep their food in small storage rooms and freezers within each school, said the district’s chief operating officer, Jim Maloney. The largest is at the Kennedy-Longfellow School, and it’s about 450 square feet, while Boston Public Schools store food in four immense warehouses outside the city and have it delivered when needed.

Going off of a tip, in March a Boston city councilor made surprise visits to the kitchens of several Boston public schools and found expired food — frozen and stored products, including frozen beef, vegetables and cheese — on shelves ready to be served. There were egg patties and pork patties dated up to two years old.

The blame for the expired food ultimately fell on “severe mismanagement” in the school system, said the councilor, John R. Connolly, resulting in a lack of inventory control, poor menu planning and a disconnect in communication between the people at each step in the process, resulting in more food being ordered while the same food sat in storage. It was also found the free food given to the schools by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which amounts to about 15 percent of the food that ends up on Boston lunch trays, was sometimes delivered already expired.

At the behest of Connolly, Boston disposed of 280 cases of old food from 40 of 46 full-service kitchens, worth about $7,000, in April. An additional 3,000 cases of expired food worth $107,000 was also still being stored in a warehouse; thousands of cases were donated to state prisons, some of which the state Department of Correction refused to accept.

While the experiences in Boston startled Cambridge school officials, they did not report finding any expired food on their kitchen shelves. “That day when I saw the story in the Globe … I called Jack [Mingle] and said, ‘Promise me that there’s no food that’s six years old in our kitchens,’” Maloney said. “And they had already begun their own internal review to make sure that wasn’t the case.”
In the aftermath came the realization that when food arrives at schools or warehouses, it is labeled with different types of expiration dates; food may be stamped with a “sell by,” “use by” or “produced by” date, each designating the product with a separate length of shelf life.

“We’re developing a protocol for each of the three categories,” Maloney said.

Of the food served to Cambridge kids on a daily basis, about 30 percent comes from the state under the USDA. It was assumed the food met state freshness guidelines, and Maloney said school officials could be lax in checking expiration dates; the findings in Boston schools taught them that even the food from the state has the potential to arrive expired.

“I’m not going to lie, we believe that it hasn’t happened, but we don’t have any proof that it did, nor could I say with absolute certainty that it didn’t,” he said.

View all of the inspection reports here.

This story was produced through the Watchdog New England-Cambridge Day partnership. View the original story on Cambridge Day’s website.

Deadline nears for suit against city’s lawyers in Monteiro case

By Rachel Zarrell and Marc Levy

Cambridge’s outside counsel in a wrongful-termination lawsuit, Ropes & Gray, has Boston offices in the Prudential Tower, seen at right in the distance. (Photo: Wally Gobetz)

The city has through the weekend to try to recoup a potential $10 million loss by suing its own lawyers in a wrongful-termination case, but the decision to sue won’t bear the endorsement of the City Council.

The timing is key in the 12-year-old case, which the city lost but is appealing. The appeal may be decided by early September, and a win could save the city millions of dollars, making it unnecessary to sue its outside counsel in the case. Either way, the statute of limitations on a lawsuit ends Sunday.

Councillor Craig Kelley offered a policy order at a Monday meeting urging the city to ask its lawyer and law firm in the case to waive a three-year statute of limitations so a lawsuit was possible if the city lost again. But Kelley’s proposal was tabled by vice mayor Henrietta Davis until the next council meeting — Monday, a day too late.

“The city manager can do anything he wants. Even if we passed the order, he could still do anything he wants,” Kelley said Tuesday when reached by telephone. “The policy order was just a suggestion.”

Davis, who was traveling Wednesday in Washington, D.C., did not respond to messages asking for comment on her “charter right” veto of Kelley’s policy order.

The city could still file suit this week, or ask for an extension regardless of the fate of Kelley’s suggestion.

“Having a valid claim is also no guarantee the city would have collected,” Kelley said. “But as far as I can tell, it’s all been derailed.”

Mayor David P. Maher was asked for comment, but mayoral staffer Lee Gianetti referred questions to Healy. Healy did not return a request to comment.

The case

If there was a lawsuit, it would be almost by invitation.

The city hired lawyer Joan A. Lukey to handle Malvina Monteiro v. City of Cambridge, in which Monteiro complained of being fired as executive secretary of the Police Review and Advisory Board by Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy Jr. when he found she was complaining about racial discrimination. The city’s counter complaint: Monteiro got a master’s degree with work done during city business hours, and that the firing came five years after the race complaints. (Lukey had been with law firm Wilmer Hale but, as of June 17, 2008, is working at Ropes & Gray.)

A jury found May 23, 2008, that Healy had retaliated against Monteiro by firing her and awarded the plaintiff just over $1 million in compensatory damages, with an extra $3.5 million in punitive damages due to the city’s conduct.

In June 2008, the city filed papers for post-trial motions, with a hearing following June 19. On April 23, 2009, Judge Bonnie McLeod-Mancu denied the city’s requests, writing in her memorandum that Healy’s actions were a “deliberate, systematic campaign to punish the plaintiff.”

On May 4, 2009, the city’s lawyers moved for a reconsideration of the verdict and the decision on post-trial motions. At this point was the first mention of reducing punitive damages due to Healy being in constant contact with his counsel.

Defending this point in her statement, Lukey wrote: “Far from cavalierly disregarding the rights of Ms. Monteiro, Mr. Healy prudently sought the regular advice of counsel and regularly took into consideration the risk of a retaliation complaint with every decision that he was required to make … Imposing harsh penalties for consultation with counsel and exercising care to avoid engaging in, or being accused of, retaliation against a plaintiff who remains employed is contrary to public policy.”

To this, Monteiro’s lawyer, Ellen Zucker, responded in opposition to the city’s motion for reconsideration: “There is no factual basis whatsoever upon which the court may even consider this ‘advice of counsel’ defense.” Deputy City Solicitor Nancy Glowa was also with Healy to offer advice throughout the trial, Zucker said.

The appeal

A year later, May 20, the judge denied a separate request for a re-hearing. In June, Cambridge filed a notice of appeal in Monteiro v. Cambridge, which took place just weeks ago, May 4, in Boston.

Now, the city has until Monday, three years to the day after the jury awarded Monteiro the $4.5 million in damages, to file a malpractice suit against Lukey and her employer for giving the city manager potentially damaging advice.

“Arguably, we paid good money for that bad advice,” Kelley said. “Arguably, [Lukey] should say, ‘We are willing to be considered potentially liable for that advice for as long as it takes for this case to wind down.’”

Counsel’s actions could also be without fault, Kelley said.

“It might’ve been good advice by her that didn’t have the intended result,” he said. “It’s like if someone asks you if something is good to eat and you say, ‘Yeah, have a taste,’ and they don’t like it. Not everything that has a bad result means you can sue someone else to cover the damages.”

That’s not the way residents speaking during a public comment period saw it. Richard Clarey, an attorney, declaring himself one of the taxpayers “on the hook for a lot of money” to pay off the case, said a recommendation to fire Monteiro in September 2003 while a judge was ordering her initial case to trial was a surprisingly basic error. “A third-year law student wouldn’t advise that,” Clarey said.

“It’s malpractice on the level of leaving a scalpel inside a patient,” resident Charles Teague said.

Ropes & Gray is a 1,000-lawyer law firm with a corporate focus that, over 140 years, has grown to have offices in Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. Gross revenue was $797 million in 2008, according to Chambers Associate, and said profits per equity partner in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available,  were $1,4 million, placing the firm in the 66th percentile. WilmerHale says it has more than 1,000 lawyers in a dozen cities worldwide.

Lukey was called Wednesday for comment.

“The only thing I do know is that once the statute of limitations closes, it seems pretty unlikely that we can have a discussion about who’s responsible for what,” Kelley said.

This story was produced through the Watchdog New England-Cambridge Day partnership. View the original story on Cambridge Day’s website.

City faces uncertain fight for Lechmere market; some unsure it will fight

By Gal Tziperman Lotan

The Lechmere T stop could become a public market if Cambridge government fights for it, according to discussion at an April meeting. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The plan to build a public market in the proposed Lechmere Square in East Cambridge is not yet out of the question, but the city will have to doggedly negotiate with state transportation officials.

At a Transportation, Traffic and Parking Committee meeting April 28, city councillor Craig Kelley acknowledged the council does not have as much clout in these matters as the state Department of Transportation, but said Cambridge will work to make the state aware of residents’ wishes.

“My fear is, once the state and NorthPoint get their respective plans to a certain point, we won’t be able to impact them much,” he said.

Building the market will also depend on the development of NorthPoint, the 43-acre development that will become home to the Lechmere MBTA station and train yard when the stop moves from its current location.

To build the 30-stall, 1920s-style public market in the emptied station space, the city will have to block a plan to expand Monsignor O’Brien Highway. Widening the highway, even by a bit, would render plans for the market unfeasible.

Expanding the highway, however, would give drivers the chance to make a right turn onto First Street, which could ease the flow of traffic down Third Street toward Kendall Square. The highway would narrow again after the turn.

But cutting down on area traffic may not be that simple: As East Cambridge resident John Paul pointed out during the hearing, First and Third streets let out in different areas, meaning many people may keep their current routes to and from Kendall Square through Third Street.

“If that’s the case, it doesn’t really relieve the traffic,” he said. “I’m not advocating increased traffic on Third Street either, but I’m saying if it’s perceived as largely commuter traffic, why not send it further on down to the intersection near the Museum of Science, where there is a lot of room … rather than sending it through city streets, and turning what is an urban residential condition into a suburban superhighway condition?”

With Lechmere Station on the other side of the highway and a wider highway, some commuters would have to cross six lanes of traffic to get to East Cambridge homes and businesses.

Reluctant champion

Heather Hoffman, a Cambridge resident and real estate attorney, suggested those relying on the city to fight for a market and against widening the highway had chosen a reluctant champion. Based on attendance at Green Line Extension meetings, she felt Cambridge’s Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department was motivating the widening of the highway.

Somerville is against it and has made its concerns known to the Department of Transportation,Hoffman said.

“Somerville doesn’t want to be split in two by a surface highway,” she said. “Somerville is actively working, as I understand, to change the road dramatically. And yet, what Cambridge is insisting on … I was told in no uncertain terms that every bit of this push [to widen the highway] is coming from Cambridge. If Somerville is trying to make this a significantly better road to have in a city, to make it possible for actual humans to cross the road, then what the heck are we doing undoing all of it?”

Somerville wants to “boulevard” the highway — lowering as it passes through the city — and is working with the state on a study to see if it is possible, but results will not be released until 2012.

Further complicating matters is the fact the city’s traffic and pedestrian data come from a study completed nearly eight years ago, and the picture may be significantly different now and when the project is completed. Transportation committee members were also unsure who would build the new Lechmere Station – The MBTA, NorthPoint developers or the city of Cambridge?

Kelley said he will order a request to City Manager Robert W. Healy Jr. to look into contracts with NorthPoint and verify who is responsible for building the station. He also said he will seek updated traffic study numbers, and any decisions about the fate of the area would have to wait a number of weeks until the committee has better information.

This story was produced through the Watchdog New England-Cambridge Day partnership. View the original story on Cambridge Day’s website.

City calls Monteiro case ‘feathers ruffled’ in its appeal

by Rachel Zarrell

Monteiro v. City of Cambridge, a wrongful-termination lawsuit that could cost Cambridge $10 million, returned Wednesday to the John Adams Courthouse in Boston. (Photo: Josh Delsman)

A lengthy lawsuit with a potential $10 million in the balance was shrugged off by a city lawyer as “feathers ruffled, feelings hurt” Wednesday as Monteiro v. City of Cambridge returned to an appeals court in Boston.

In the wrongful termination case, which began a dozen years ago, Malvina Monteiro claims she was wrongfully terminated as executive secretary of the Police Review and Advisory Board by Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy Jr. when he found she was complaining about racial discrimination.

City counsel Joan A. Lukey said the city ended Monteiro’s employment after finding out she falsified time sheets to get a master’s degree during work hours. Monteiro’s termination, she argued, came five years after she filed the racial discrimination complaint, “too far out to infer” it was related to the charge. As far as Monteiro’s evidence for retaliation, Lukey claimed these were “feathers ruffled, feelings hurt kind of things” and not substantial enough to be deemed retaliation.

Monteiro’s counsel, Ellen Zucker, responded with an emotional argument: that leading up to Monteiro’s termination, Healy enacted a series of retaliatory measures against her, including stripping her of management duties in selecting members for her board. Healy was not only being dishonest in his actions as Monteiro’s boss, but also lied on the stand during trial, Zucker said.

After a 2008 trial, a Middlesex Superior Court jury awarded Monteiro $4.5 million in damages, $3.5 million of which were punitive damages.

The city appealed upon Healy’s insistence, despite some city councillors advising him otherwise. If the appeal falls in the plaintiff’s favor, the cost to the city could reach $10 million, including $2 million in legal fees and $70,000 a month in interest for the original judgment.

After rejecting the city’s initial appeal, Middlesex Superior Court Judge Bonnie MacLeod-Mancuso wrote in a 2009 decision that the jury had cause to find Healy’s actions “reprehensible.”

Lukey said she expects a decision to be released in the next two to four months.

View the story on Cambridge Day’s website.