D’Agostino Files Lawsuit to return to work, seeks back pay, medical benefits

 Former Assistant City Attorney Says

Mayor, Lawyers Violated his Rights



By: Tom Duggan – September 20, 2012

Attorney Richard D'Agositno
Attorney Richard D’Agositno

(LAWRENCE) Former Lawrence Assistant City Attorney Richard D’Agostino may be coming back to work if a superior court judge agrees with allegations in a lawsuit filed by D’Agostino claiming that the law was broken when Mayor Lantigua, Attorney William D’Adamo, and City Attorney Charles Boddy illegally pressured him into signing an agreement which tied his worker’s compensation benefits to his release from the city.

D’Agostino had been working for the city as an assistant city attorney since 2005. His medical leave lasted for approximately 16 months beginning Jan. 11, 2011. He only received medical benefit payments until Dec. 31, 2011. According to D’Agostino’s lawsuit, the city refused to pay him in accordance with the law and his intention was to return to work and fulfill his contract.

In April, 2012, D’Agostino’s doctor finally cleared him to return, but when D’Agostino showed up for work on his first day, Mayor Lantigua summarily fired him and had him escorted out of city hall in violation of his contract and state law, the suit alleges.  

His new lawsuit alleges that the City of Lawrence and its’ agents, including “Attorney William DiAamo and City Attorney Charles Boddy” held his medical benefits check over his head, forcing him to sign an illegal release agreement in exchange for his state mandated medical benefits check.

The lawsuit, filed in Lawrence Superior Court, claims that the City of Lawrence broke the law when they illegally tied his worker’s compensation benefits to his removal from his job. Attorney D’Agostino alleges that the City paid him $85,000 earlier this year in exchange for a promise from D’Agostino that will not return to work and will not sue the city for further damages.

In court documents obtained by the Valley Patriot, (see below) D’Agostino claims “breach of contract and for violations of the Massachusetts Worker’s Compensation law.”

D’Agostino is asking a judge for a “preliminary injunction prohibiting the City of Lawrence from enforcing the release which it insisted be executed in connection with the parties execution of a lump sum settlement agreement…”

In his lawsuit filed last week, D’Agostino is asking a judge to void the illegal agreement, grant an injunction stopping the city from filling his position as the Assistant City Attorney (which they have yet to fill) and return him to work, as well as pay him for the time he was illegally fired and make good on the medical benefits owed to him.

D’Agostino had a contract with the city which was signed on July 1, 2009 and was set to expire on June 30, 2014.

Willie Lantigua and Charlie Boddy
Willie Lantigua and Charlie Boddy

 D’Agostino also claims in his lawsuit against the City of Lawrence, claims that “on or about January 1, 2012, the city removed” D’Agostino from the city payroll while he was out on medical leave even though his doctor had not yet cleared him to return to work.

The city, according to court documents, “ignored his request to be allowed to utilize then accrued vacation and sick leave under the employment contract after December 31, 2011.”

The suit alleges that attorney William D’Adamo, a private attorney of the DiAdamo and DiAdamo Law firm who is contracted to handle the city’s worker’s compensation claims, “conditioned the city’s lump sum agreement with the plaintiff on his assent that it contain, as part of the settlement, a waiver and release purporting to bar D’Agostino from a) reemployment with the city b) receiving benefits due him, c) bringing claims of wrongful discharge and breach of his employment agreement.”

D’Agostino is not only seeking to return to his job in the Lawrence City Attorney’s Office, but is asking a judge to impose a state mandated fine of $10,000 each against the individuals who participated in the illegal actions tying his medical benefits to his release from the city.

D’Agostino’s lawsuit claims that the lump sum medical benefits settlement tied to his release from the city, violated Massachusetts General Law 152, section 48, paragraph 3 states:

(3) No lump sum agreement shall contain as part of a settlement a general or specific release that would serve as a bar to (i) employment with any employer, (ii) the receipt by the employee of any pay or benefits due him by an employer, (iii) the bringing of any future workers’ compensation claim or (iv) the bringing of any claims of wrongful discharge or breach of contract. All such general or specific releases shall be null and void. Any employer, insurer, employer or attorney attempting to obtain such release from an employee shall be punished by a fine of ten thousand dollars. Where the employee has been found suitable for vocational rehabilitation services pursuant to section thirty G, lump sum agreements shall be valid only where the employee returned to continuous employment for a period of six or more months; or completed an approved rehabilitation plan; or received express written consent from the office of education and vocational rehabilitation; or an order or decision from an administrative judge or administrative law judge authorizing such agreement. Any employee who receives an amount in violation of this paragraph shall have the right to re-open his or her claim for compensation. Any employee who accepts a lump sum settlement for benefits claimed under section 34A shall be precluded from any further lump sum settlements for said benefits.

All the allegations against the city of Lawrence occurred during the time period of Mayor Lantigua’s administration. City Attorney Charlie Boddy is the lead City Attorney and was D’Agostino’s immediate supervisor.

There will be a hearing next week on D’Agostino’s lawsuit against the city next Thursday, September 27, 2012 in Lawrence Superior Court on Common Street.