Solomon allegedly caused changes to CBA that would increase his salary and provided unwarranted benefits to five intermittent police officers, including one who was a City Councilor
The State Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division has issued an Order to Show Cause alleging former City of Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon violated the conflict of interest law by including changes in a revised draft collective bargaining agreement that would increase his salary without notifying the Mayor or any other city officials of the changes or their financial impacts. The Order also alleges that Solomon provided unwarranted benefits to five intermittent police officers and sent the city’s Human Resources Director a fabricated training certificate and a fabricated letter to allow a Methuen City Councilor who was also a police officer to continue to be paid. The Order initiates an adjudicatory proceeding against Solomon.
According to the Order, Solomon was a member of the team of Methuen officials that represented the City in negotiating new collective bargaining agreements with the Methuen Police patrolmen’s union and superior officers’ union in 2017. The superior officers’ union sought, and the City agreed to, a change in the way base pay was calculated in their CBA. The leader of the superior officers’ union, in consultation with Solomon, subsequently added a provision that would have a stacking effect on compensation, resulting in estimated salary increases between 35% and 183%. Solomon, with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, understood the financial impact of the changes, but did not inform other members of the negotiating team of the changes, the Order alleges.
The Order alleges that, after the superior officers’ CBA was signed, Solomon, whose own contract required that he be paid a salary 2.6 times that of the city’s highest paid permanent full-time police officer, emailed the president of the Methuen Police Patrolmen’s Association a new, revised draft patrolmen’s CBA that contained the same change in the calculation of base compensation included in the new superior officers’ CBA. Solomon allegedly did not notify the Mayor or the other members of the City’s negotiating team of this change and knew the change would substantially affect his own salary, which would increase by an estimated $90,000 to over $375,000 in Fiscal Year 2019. In July 2018, the recently elected new Mayor informed Solomon he would not be paid that amount. In January 2022, an independent arbitrator determined the superior officers’ CBA was invalid because city officials approving the contract did not understand what they agreed to.
Solomon’s actions concerning the CBAs allegedly violated the conflict of interest law’s prohibition against municipal employees participating officially in matters in which they have a financial interest, as well as the law’s prohibition against public employees using their official positions to obtain valuable, unwarranted privileges or benefits for themselves or others.
In addition to his actions regarding the CBAs, the Order alleges Solomon violated the conflict of interest law by his actions as Police Chief regarding non-civil service intermittent police officers, including three employees of his private security firm and a Methuen City Councilor. The Order alleges Solomon recommended hiring five intermittent officers on a full-time basis when there were available candidates on the civil service list, continued to employ the five without proof that at least four had not completed required police training, and presented the Methuen Human Resources Director with a fabricated police training completion certificate and a fabricated police training sponsorship letter on behalf of the City Councilor, which allowed the City Councilor to continue to be paid as a police officer. In 2019, Solomon issued an order allowing intermittent police officers the same work privileges as civil service officers, contrary to civil service law, according to the Order.
By recommending for hire, employing, and offering work privileges equal to those of civil service officers to at least five intermittent officers, Solomon repeatedly violated the conflict of interest law’s prohibition against public employees using their official positions to obtain valuable, unwarranted privileges or benefits for themselves or others, the Order alleges. In addition, by providing the Human Resources Director with, what he knew or had reason to know, were, a fabricated training certificate and a fabricated sponsorship letter on behalf of the City Councilor, Solomon allegedly violated the law’s prohibition against public employees knowingly presenting false or fraudulent claims to their public employer for any payment or valuable benefit. Finally, the Order alleges Solomon violated the conflict of interest law with fraudulent intent when he continued to employ the City Councilor as an intermittent police officer and submitted fabricated documents relating to him allowing him to receive benefits exceeding $1,000 in a 12-month period.
Pursuant to the Commission’s Enforcement Procedures, the Enforcement Division files an Order to Show Cause after the Commission has found reasonable cause to believe the subject of the Order violated the conflict of interest law. Before filing the Order to Show Cause, the Enforcement Division gives the subject an opportunity to resolve the matter through a disposition agreement. The Commission will schedule a public hearing on the allegations against Solomon within 90 days.
The Commission is authorized to impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation of the conflict of interest law.
The Commission encourages public employees to contact the Commission’s Legal Division at 617-371-9500 for free advice if they have any questions regarding how the conflict of interest law may apply to them.