Greenfield, police chief appeal racial bias verdict

  • Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. in his office at the police station. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/21/2022 5:54:47 PM
Modified: 12/21/2022 5:52:02 PM

GREENFIELD — The city and Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. have officially filed their appeal of the May 6 jury verdict in Hampshire County Superior Court that found the chief and the Greenfield Police Department racially discriminated against former Officer Patrick Buchanan.

The notice of appeal, filed on Tuesday, states the city and Haigh are appealing the May 6 verdict; the denial of their motion for a mistrial; the memorandum and order denying release of a voir dire (witness examination) recording of Haigh and Lt. Todd Dodge; the $1 million judgment on the jury verdict; the denial of a new trial; and the amended final judgment, among other motions and decisions.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner acknowledged the appeal was an anticipated step in the process and declined to comment further.

Since the verdict, Wedegartner and the city’s lawyers have said appealing the decision was always an option on the table. In the months following, she noted the decision was up to the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association, Greenfield’s insurance company, because it will be paying the $1 million judgment, including all attorneys’ fees, if the ruling stands.

“According to the court process, the attorney and insurance company have a right to ask for a new trial or, failing to get a new trial, an appeal,” Wedegartner said in June, prior to the motion for a new trial being denied in September. “I believe that’s the way the process goes, and it’s my understanding they intend to do that. It’s the insurance company doing that — rightly so, it’s their money. They’re looking to protect it, plus make sure the city of Greenfield gets a fair trial.”

In May, a verdict found Haigh had racially discriminated against Buchanan when he denied him a promotion in 2014, which the jury found was due to “racial animus.” Buchanan was the only Black officer on the force at the time, according to his original civil complaint and the city’s answer to the complaint.

In 2015, Buchanan was promoted to provisional sergeant but was soon placed on paid leave following a complaint from a fellow officer. After an internal investigation, Buchanan was placed on a three-day unpaid suspension and demoted from his post.

Then in late 2020, Greenfield announced three openings for promotion to sergeant, in which 10 officers applied for the promotion. During this process, Haigh allegedly scored Buchanan so low to “ensure that Buchanan had an overall ranking of fifth and as such was not in contention” for the position, according to the lawsuit. The Superior Court jury subsequently found Buchanan had been “discriminated against or retaliated against” in connection with the sergeant promotional process.

Following the verdict and judgment, the city filed a motion for a new trial on June 27, which Judge Mark Mason denied on Sept. 29 after concluding “no miscarriage of justice has occurred.” After the denial of a new trial and the Nov. 21 issuance of an amended final judgment, the city’s lawyers had 30 days to file a notice of appeal, which came on Tuesday. An appeal, city attorney Leonard Kesten said in September, is likely to play out over one or two years.

“This decision will never stand,” Kesten said on Sept. 29. “I expect the Appeals Court will reverse it.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.


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