Methuen Mayor Neil Perry has put Police Chief Joe Solmon and Captain Greg Gallant on leave after a scathing report was released today by the The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) regarding the passing of the controversial 2017 Police Superior Officers’ Contract.
In the 153 page report the Inspector General cites a “a failure of leadership at all levels”, blaming former mayor Zanni, Police Chief Solomon, Captain Gallant, City Solicitor Richard D’Agostino, (Former) City Auditor Kelley, and the 2017 Methuen City Council, saying that every level of city government failed the people of Methuen. OIG REPORT
The report cites the following examples:
Mayor Zanni breached his fiduciary duty to City and the public with respect to the Superiors’ Contract and Chief Solomon’s contract extension.
The city solicitor may have breached his duty of care to the City by failing to review the Superiors’ Contract before Mayor Zanni signed it, before the City Council approved it, or even after Mayor Jajuga learned about the contract’s financial impact.
Captain Gallant acted in bad faith when he added contract language that had not been agreed to by City officials during negotiations.
Chief Solomon violated his obligations to the City and the public by remaining silent about the unapproved language Captain Gallant put in the Superiors’ Contract.
Chief Solomon did not act in the best interests of the City and may have had a conflict of interest when he served on the City’s negotiating team for contracts that increased his compensation.
The report details the failures of the city council and city auditor for not doing a cost analysis on the proposed contract changes.
“On September 18, 2017, no members of the City Council asked any questions about the Superiors’ Contract. Nor did any councilor ask the city auditor for his opinion of the financial impact or budgetary constraints the contract would create The City Council approved the Superiors’ Contract in two votes less than an hour apart”
The superior’s contract, which the IG says overly inflated the pay of the superior officers, was due to what they called “artificial base pay” which was calculated by Captain Gallant to increase how base pay was calculated before the cost of living increases were applied. The cost of living increases were 0% raise in the first year of the contract and a 2% raise for the next two years.
“Based on documents provided by the City, for instance, the captains’ base pay went from $107,505 under the prior contract to $287,719 in 2017”
“It was estimated that the salaries of captains, lieutenants and sergeants would rise to an average of $432,000, $269,000 and $160,000, respectively, not including overtime or paid details.”
The OIG found that (then) Mayor Zanni was told and was aware of the base salary changes in the contract and agreed to them.
The report also cites that Methuen City Councilors had a conflict of interest and illegally voted on the contract twice in one night.
Specifically, the OIG found that:
The Council appeared to have improperly invoked the Rule of Necessity by, among other
things, failing to publicly identify the conflicted councilors and the nature of their conflicts.
The former mayor and the Council violated City Resolution #4720, which requires a financial impact statement and a memorandum explaining the differences between the current and proposed contracts prior to approval.
The Council violated the City Charter and a City Ordinance by voting to approve the Superiors’ Contract twice on the same day.
Then-Mayor Jajuga violated Section 4 of Chapter 40 of the General Laws and the City Charter by paying the superior officers under a MOU that the City Council never approved.
The former mayor and former and current city councilors violated the duties of care and due diligence that they owe as elected officials to the residents of Methuen by negotiating and approving the Superiors’ Contract either without understanding the financial impact of the contract, or by understanding the financial impact and approving it anyway.”
Nowhere in the report does it address city councilors receiving a city job n the police department as the result of their passing the superiors’ contract.
The report made several recommendations moving forward and applauded current Mayor Perry’s efforts to turn around the city’s finances and management.
“Since being sworn into office in January 2020, Mayor Neil Perry has taken important steps to improve the City’s oversight and governance. For instance, Mayor Perry hired an audit firm to conduct a performance audit of the police department. He also created the position of Director of Human Resources to provide the City and City employees with a dedicated human resources manager as well as to update policies and procedures for the City. Furthermore, Mayor Perry hired an assistant city solicitor to serve as his legal advisor.”
The negotiations and approval of the Superiors’ Contract were fraught with multiple missteps by all parties tasked with safeguarding the fiscal management of the City. Mayor Zanni agreed to a costly contract without conducting appropriate due diligence, such as reading the contract (in draft or final form) or requesting a financial impact statement by an auditor. The city solicitor failed to review the Superiors’ Contract, even after the City’s budget shortfall came to light. Chief Solomon and Captain Gallant acted in their own financial interests and, at a minimum, they were not forthcoming about unbargained-for terms contained in the Superiors’ Contract.”
Chief Solomon and Mayor Perry could not be reached for comment.