How does a pension just shy of $20,000 a month sound?
It’s tough to walk away from $24,773 a month, but it’s easier if you’re 60 years old and looking at a pension of, well, what’s 80% of $24,773 a month?
Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon to the Methuen City Council:
“You can’t fire me, I quit!”
And so he has … not quit, exactly, but he is filing his retirement papers. It’s tough to walk away from $24,773 a month, but it’s easier if you’re 60 years old and looking at a pension of, well, what’s 80% of $24,773 a month?
Answer: It comes to just shy of 20 grand and change. Retirement, where is thy sting?
In case you haven’t been following the political catastrophe that is Methuen, even his local fanzine is now describing Chief Solomon as “embattled.”
Bailing out now is a good career move for Solomon. A long-awaited audit report on Methuen Police Department expenditures is expected momentarily. The alarm is ringing loudly, and it’s always a good move to flee the bank before the posse arrives.
The only question is, exactly how big is the kiss in the mail going to be for Chief Solomon.
His problem is, there’s controversy about his latest contract, not to mention the superior officers’. You see, according to the state inspector general, the actual contract was written by the union, and when the city administration neglected to read it, the union surreptitiously rewrote it and nobody noticed before it was signed.
Suddenly, the base pay of captains skyrocketed from $107,505 to $287,719, and by some accounts, their salaries could have gone as high as $432,000.
Who the hell do these cops think they are? UMass administrators?
Before, when the city woke up and smelled the impending bankruptcy and demanded negotiations, the union lawyer emailed the cop-negotiator: “I sure hope the city councilors don’t have a calculator.”
The chief’s contract was tied to the superior officers’ falsified pact, and he claims he’s actually due even more — at least $375,548 a year. His contract requires a “night deferential,” believe it or not.
Last summer, the City Council was debating a vote of no confidence in the chief, based on his “extremely excessive and exorbitant compensation package.”
Laying out his perks, Councilor Mike Simard, a Lawrence cop by the way, charged that Solomon has not one but two official city vehicles, one of which he uses for smoking cigars.
“That’s gross mismanagement,” Simard said.
It’s also just plain gross.
The first no-confidence vote was 8-0, with one councilor voting “present.” That Ed Markey-like stand was taken by one Nick DiZoglio. Does that name ring a bell? The state senator up there is Diana DiZoglio, and guess who has given Sen. DiZoglio $1,550?
That’s right, Chief Cigar.
On the second vote, Councilor DiZoglio voted no confidence.
This kind of City Hall insurrection, to use a newly popular word, never used to happen in Methuen. In 2017, the year the Methuen cops got their big wet kiss (by kissing themselves), a majority of the nine councilors either had a relative on the job or were themselves about to be handed a badge.
For instance, Councilor Jim Jajuga, former state cop and state senator (under Billy Bulger). His son was one of those captains whose pay was scheduled to rise to $432,000.
That same year, 2017, Jajuga was elected mayor. Did I mention that Solomon gave $900 to Jajuga? Jajuga succeeded Stephen Zanni, the mayor who didn’t read the contract after the cops secretly changed it to make themselves millionaires. The zany Zanni got $400 from Solomon.
Solomon also gave $500 to Jonathan Blodgett, the district attorney of Essex County. Blodgett is giving this scandal a good leaving alone, needless to say.
The Methuen police department is like one big family reunion. The chief has an in-law on the job, his business partner’s ex-wife is his secretary. (Now that’s Bulger-esque, taking care of the ex’s.) Two sergeants (their base pay is $160,000) have wives who are dispatchers, two others have sons.
At least two patrolmen are the children of former city councilors, and one ex-city councilor married a police dispatcher and then became a cop.
Can someone say nationwide search?
The problem was, after the hacks all hired each other and then made themselves millionaires, there was no money left in the till.
Margaret Thatcher once famously said that the only problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. The same can be said of rampant cronyism, as Methuen is proving.
I’m almost through, and I don’t even have room for Methuen’s power couple — ex-Mayor and ex-Sen. Sharon Pollard and ex-Rep. Tom Lussier. When she was at the State House, a drunk state senator from Somerville once told Sharon, “If you lost 30 pounds, you could be Miss America.”
Lussier, who is seven years younger than his now 70-year-old bride, has been sanctioned by both the State Ethics Commission ($5,000 in 2001) and the U.S. Dept. of Justice ($50,000 for lobbying violations). He’s a statesman, in other words.
Lussier was laid off from his $80,000-a-year job at City Hall last year.
Needless to say, the Power Couple is thisclose to Chief Cigar.
One final question: who’s gonna get the MPD’s Cigar Car when Chief Solomon finally gives up the keys?