Former officer reaches $125,000 settlement with Pittsfield

Dale Eason

PITTSFIELD — A former city police officer whose status with the department remained in limbo for years after he falsified a report about a shoplifting incident has reached a $125,000 settlement with the city of Pittsfield.

Dale Eason, who retired from the department in March, will receive $85,000 in back pay and benefits to which he was entitled and $40,000 "to settle any other claims [Eason] might have without [the city] admitting any liability," according to a March 11 email sent by Pittsfield City Solicitor Stephen N. Pagnotta to City Accountant Allison M. Crespo.

That email was obtained by The Eagle through a public records request.

Eason's settlement agreement also states that he also will be provided a "neutral reference" from the city.

Eason was fired by the department in September 2016, after an investigation determined that he had put false information in a police report surrounding a shoplifting arrest that February. That matter was then taken to arbitration, after which it was determined that Eason should be reinstated to the force with back pay and serve a three-day suspension.

The city appealed that decision to Berkshire Superior Court in August 2017, and Judge Daniel Ford affirmed the arbitrator's award. The city made a further appeal, to the state's Supreme Judicial Court, which didn't find a basis on which to overturn the arbitrator's decision.

The court ruled in October 2018 that the city and department must abide by the arbitrator's ruling that Eason should be reinstated with back pay and receive a three-day suspension.

After that decision, Eason was reinstated to the department and immediately placed on paid administrative leave pending "the completion of an essential functions analysis and administrative review by the Police Department and the City," according to a Pittsfield Police Department personnel order.

In accordance with the settlement, he will receive the full benefits of a retired officer, according to a March 7 handwritten document signed by Eason and included in the response to the records request.

The office of Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer initially declined to provide any information regarding the settlement, including Eason's official date of retirement, saying the details were confidential. On May 14, The Eagle sent a public records request to Tyer and Pittsfield City Clerk Michelle Benjamin seeking the details of the settlement.

The city released that information Thursday.

In a separate matter also involving Eason, the city eventually was compelled to release the details of another settlement that it initially withheld citing confidentiality conditions.

This year, it was revealed that the city settled a civil lawsuit filed by Phyllis Stankiewicz for nearly $143,000 amid claims she was roughed up by Eason and Officer Jennifer Brueckmann during a botched 2015 arrest.

The officers were sent to the wrong address for a report of a disturbance. The officers were informed of the error, but still took Stankiewicz into custody, injuring her in the process.

In September, a public records request for details of that settlement was filed by Igor Greenwald, the founder of Civil Liberties Pittsfield. By December, the city had failed to respond to that request, prompting an appeal to the Secretary of State's Office.

The city responded two days later, claiming that the requested materials were exempt from being publicly disclosed.

In February, Greenwald filed a second appeal with the Secretary of State's Office, which, later that month, informed Pittsfield that the requested information was not exempt from being made public.

In March, the city provided Greenwald with a copy of the invoice from its insurance carrier, Woburn-based MIIA Property and Casualty Group, detailing the $142,489 settlement and the $7,500 deductible charged to the city.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.