As he used to stuff envelopes with cash for his crooked police at this time every year, Whitey Bulger would wryly observe, “Christmas is for cops and kids.”
And now we know that in Methuen, every day is Christmas for the cops, or at least the superior officers.
How appropriate that the damning report about rampant corruption in the border burg also known as “Northwest Lawrence” should have been issued Dec. 23.
The more damning a report of public-sector misbehavior, the closer its release invariably comes to a major holiday. Remember the RMV report about the deaths of seven motorcyclists — put out after dark on Thanksgiving Eve 2019.
How about the governor’s proposed doubling or tripling of the gasoline tax without legislative or popular approval? That outrageous heist was officially announced last Monday.
This latest report by the state inspector general is entitled “Leadership Failures In Methuen Police Contracts.”
Which is an understatement.
What the cops and the townie pols did to the taxpayers in Methuen was brazen but relatively easy to describe. In 2017, the cops negotiated with the city for a new contract for superior officers.
The city agreed to a series of 2% annual COLA raises, but then the union surreptitiously rewrote the already-approved contract so that the superiors would all be millionaires within two or three years.
Captains’ salaries might go as high as $459,906, lieutenants $289,834 and sergeants $181,298, plus OT and details. What could possibly go wrong?
Before they signed off on the new illegal contract, neither the mayor, the city solicitor, auditor or city councilors bothered to read the counterfeit version.
Of course, assorted members of the city council had their own reasons for … not caring, shall we say.
According to the IG, two of the hacks were about to be hired by the MPD, and three others either had children or spouses who were already on the job, with two about to be promoted by the chief who would soon be making $375,548 under his new contract.
Yet another nationwide search — five of them actually …
After the IG’s report came out, police Chief Joe Solomon and Capt. Greg Gallant of the superiors’ union were placed on “administrative leave.” That means they keep getting paid.
You ask, can the taxpayers do anything? I say, forget it, Jake, it’s Northwest Lawrence.
You’ll notice in the photo that Chief Solomon is smiling. What, him worry? He’s already been fired once, in 2007, and he got his job back, with $195,000 in back pay. He’s obviously not letting the controversies affect his appetite, either.
The cops in Methuen wrote all kinds of perks into the contract, designed to inflate the salaries higher and higher, depending on your rank.
Just to take one example, remember the Quinn bill — which once paid cops big bucks to get worthless degrees at matchbox-cover colleges to inflate their “educational credentials.”
It was such a monumental scam that even the kleptocrats at the State House felt compelled to repeal it, back in 2009. The Methuen contract resurrected the Quinn bill, but wait, it gets better.
According to the IG, under the contract a Methuen patrolman got $7,423 for his “degree.” But Chief Solomon’s new contract guaranteed him an extra $20,129 for that subordinate’s degree, plus Solomon got to put in for his own degree and also run his own “security company.” Capt. Gallant did most of the wet work, according to the IG. First, he reformatted the agreed-to contract so that the hacks at city hall wouldn’t catch the, uh, changes in the pact.
Then Gallant emailed a heads-up to the union’s lawyer, saying there might be trouble when the city discovered the “great increases, and it all compounds.”
It all compounds. Benjamin Franklin said a penny saved is a penny earned. In Northwest Lawrence, a penny pilfered is a penny compounded.
When the IG asked Gallant whether he knew that his changes were going to make millionaires out of everybody above the rank of patrolman, the IG says Gallant claimed “he did not understand the compounding effect.”
As the IG notes, “His email suggests otherwise.”
By the way, the union lawyer emailed back to Gallant that when Methuen finally realizes that the contract has been totally rewritten, he hoped the city “doesn’t bring their calculators.”
In 2018, Methuen got a new mayor — Jim Jajuga. Does that name ring a bell? He’s a former state cop who was elected state senator when Billy Bulger was running the commonwealth.
As a city councilor, Jajuga had not voted for the rip-off contract, because he had a son who was on the job. Young Jajuga was about to be promoted to captain, which under the compounding contract might have increased his salary to $432,295 a year.
Good things happen to good people!
There used to be a governor’s councilor named Patrick “Sonny” McDonough. He was a very good friend of the Bulgers, if you get my drift. Sonny had a theory about the local constabulary.
“Boys,” Sonny used to say, “never use a cop as a bagman. Cops think everything belongs to them. When a cop hands me $300, I never know if he stole $200 or $700.”
It all compounds, right, Sonny? Especially in Methuen.