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Questions remain following announcement of Springfield courthouse settlement

The employees’ main concerns seem to be who will make sure all of the remediation outlined in the settlement agreement will be completed properly.
Updated: May. 10, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - We know all the details of the settlement reached in the Roderick Ireland Courthouse mold case. Attorneys representing employees who sued the Massachusetts Trial Court spoke out Tuesday morning. Almost immediately, questions from courthouse staff flooded into our newsroom.

The employees’ main concerns seem to be who will make sure all of the remediation outlined in the settlement agreement will be completed properly.

For years, employees have been fighting for safe working conditions at the Roderick Ireland Courthouse in Springfield, but the discovery of dangerous mold inside the building last summer changed the course of their battle. On Tuesday, a settlement was announced by attorneys representing employees who sued the trial court.

“It’s sad, but this is why we have our system in place: to make people do what they are supposed to do,” said Hampden County Register of Deeds Cheryl Coakley-Rivera

Coakley-Rivera was one of the plaintiffs named on the lawsuit. She said she’s happy with the outcome since they are now one step closer to safer working conditions.

However, Hampden County Clerk of Courts Laura Gentile said some of her employees don’t feel the same way.

“I don’t think anybody is terribly excited. I think people wanted to be out of that building,” Gentile added.

She’s still worried about the evidence she watches over that is covered in mold.

“It’s the law, so it’s not going to be moved until I deem it’s safe and secure,” Gentile said.

With word of the settlement, employees from inside the courthouse sent Western Mass News questions to ask the attorneys and tonight, we are getting them answers starting with who will be cleaning and remediating the courthouse and how will the settlement ensure it’s getting done?

“It doesn’t surprise me to hear, as we’re standing here, that an employee already has a question about who the vendor is going to be. That’s a trust issue and we’ve built into this agreement that we will be involved in that vendor selection process,” said Attorney Jeff Morneau, co-counsel representing employees and plaintiffs in the case.

A third-party vendor will be agreed upon by both the employees named in the lawsuit and the trial court. Employees will also have a designated person to talk to about any building concerns, who is not affiliated with the trial court.

Workers also wanted to know about any financial help for medical bills. Attorneys told us both current and past employees, and families of employees who passed away, will have an opportunity to participate in an operational health hazard assessment.

“It will help determine what the causes are, if the environmental conditions of the courthouse in the past or present, are causing their health conditions and will also make recommendations going forward as to what the next steps should be,” said Attorney Laura Mangini, co-counsel representing employees and plaintiffs in the case.

We also checked in with Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi to hear his reaction to the settlement as he had stopped bringing inmates into the courthouse because of the mold found inside the building.

“We have been sending people and keeping them on a close schedule to get them in and out for their proceedings. We’re going to continue that. Once the place has been cleaned and has been deemed safe, we will then rejoin everybody else and occupying the courthouse,” Cocchi said.

Coakley-Rivera said her employees will remain out of the building until the remediation is completed by the end of the summer. We should also point out the building will be closed for deep cleaning for several days around the Fourth of July holiday.