April 16, 2020
An Arbitrator ruled Thursday that Methuen Police Officer Arthur Hardy was “incompetent” in the way he investigated a shooting in 2018 but disagreed with former Mayor Jajuga’s 270 day suspension of the officer.
The Arbitrator reduced the 270 day suspension to 60 days and ordered the city to give him back pay for almost a year that he has been out of work. The arbitrator also ruled the city has to pay him any overtime or detail time he would have made had he been suspended for only 60 days.
“The city did establish that Officer Hardy’s actions on August 1, 2018 amounted to incompetence,” the Arbitrator ruled.
However, arbitrator Shea said that the original suspension was reduced because: “The City did establish just cause to discipline Officer Hardy for incompetence [in violation of Rule 5.1 – Incompetence] and for his failure to submit a complete report. The City did not establish just cause to impose a 270-working day suspension.” Hardy AWARD
The disciplining of the Methuen officer stems from his actions after a shooting in August, 2018 whereby he mishandled evidence, specifically digging a bullet out of a wall, damaging the evidence and failing to properly report his actions on his police report.
Methuen Mayor Neil Perry was pressured by a friend of Hardy on the city council to reverse the decision of former Mayor Jajuga. Six councilors sent him a letter requesting that he put Hardy back to work, but Perry said at the time he wanted to wait until the arbitration was over.
“I’m surprised that the arbitrator found officer Hardy incompetent, but then would reduce the suspension so significantly,” Methuen Police Chief Solomon told The Valley Patriot.
“However, I stand by the hearing officers ruling and the mayors decision.”
“I appreciate the arbitrators work, and we are lucky to live in a country that allows an appeals process for any decisions made by the municipality when it comes to the disciplining of city workers,” Solomon concluded.
Chief Solomon, originally recommended Hardy be fired, but Mayor Jajuga ruled a 270 day suspension was enough.
Solomon pointed out that the suspension was not his decision as he has no say over a mayoral level hearing.
“Under the city charter, the mayor is legally responsible for all hiring, firing, and disciplining of city workers.”
Mayor Perry, who inherited the issue when he took office in January said that his office will calculate the back pay owed to Hardy in the next 24 hours.
“After hearing all the facts and evidence, arbitrator Shea issued an informed opinion, and the city will act pursuant to the award. This legal matter was well underway before I took office; I am glad it is now resolved so we can move forward.”
MGL CH 31 section 41-45 states that before any law enforcement offices with 2 suspension (of 5 days or more) can return to duty he “shall” be reviewed by the personnel administrator and has to attend in-service training.