The Inspector General’s report on the approval of the Methuen Superior Officers’ contract was scathing and eye opening to those who have not been paying attention to Methuen politics.
The report is harsh with criticism of former Mayor Zanni, current Mayor Jajuga, the previous city council, and others.
It detailed how the former mayor and councilors rushed through a vote on the police contract with no questions, no public input, and no concern for the financial impact on the city. It detailed conflicts of interest and all but spelled out a quid-pro-quo deal being made.
Within minutes of that report being made public, people took to social media boasting how Councilors Saba and McCarty were right, and that this report vindicates everything the current council has been doing, including cutting $1.8M out of the police budget after the mayor already cut more than $1M.
That point of view, however, is short sighted and designed to confuse the voters and the public. It also ignores the facts.
The fact is, Mayor Jajuga almost had to lay off more than 70 police officers as the result of the city council’s $1.8M budget cut, not because of inflated superior officer’s salaries, and not because he voted on his son’s contract.
If the council had simply level funded the police budget from the beginning (after increasing DPW, fire, and school budgets) there would have been no proposed layoffs at all.
Of course, you would never know that reading the local paper or watching the Boston news channels. Their only interest is promoting the sexier (and more inaccurate) story that cops were being laid off in Methuen because of the superior officers’ inflated salaries.
Lost in all of this madness and propaganda is the fact that, regardless of who the IG blamed for the mess Methuen is in, the police budget was still short nearly $1.8M.
Councilors Steve Saba and Jim McCarty had emphatically stated that they would not put the money back in the budget under any circumstances. They wanted to punish the police. They want to punish the mayor. Public safety be dammed.
In light of the IG report, Mayor Jajuga has announced that he will start paying the superior officers based on the 2014 contract. Surprise! Now, Councilors Saba and McCarty say they are putting back at least $1.2M. Had they done this 8 months ago, the turmoil and controversy that made Methuen a laughing stock would never have happened. Yet, here we are.
Councilors Saba and McCarty may be right about some of their positions on the matter of blame, but the one thing they were wrong about is putting the lives of innocent people at risk to score political points. And that’s exactly what they did.
McCarty and Saba didn’t seem to care about public safety when the chief said there would be at least 50 patrolmen laid off. They only cared about grandstanding, scoring political points, and trying to look like they are solving a problem that they alone created.
Truth is, they didn’t solve anything. They made the problem worse.
In summary, the council cut the police budget by $1.8M, grandstanded for 8 months, read the IG report and then put $1.2M back in the police budget so they could look like heroes who saved Methuen from 70 patrolmen layoffs.
They were anything but heroes.
Sure, Mayor Jajuga could have ended all this last summer by eliminating two captains and reorganizing the police department. On that point, Saba and McCarty are right.
But, given that one of those captains is the mayor’s son, did anyone really believe he was going to do that?
We didn’t. And neither did the council.
We find it shameful that people who were elected to protect the public would rather play politics than solve problems.
Most shameful, however, is that the Methuen police officers at the center of all this were held totally blameless for any wrongdoing in the IG report, yet they have been the subject of public scorn because of inaccurate media reports and politicians who could care less.
We believe the men and women who are willing to die to protect the citizens of Methuen deserved more. ◊