METHUEN, Mass. - The Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General said the controversial Methuen Police contract that has been the center of debate for months is illegal.
According to a statement released Friday, the Inspector General found former mayor Stephen Zanni and the former City Council likely violated state laws, failed to comply with their own city rules and breached their fiduciary duties to residents while negotiating the approval of the superior officers’ union contract.
The Inspector General recommends the City Council take steps to rescind its prior vote on the contract, in addition to contacting the State Ethics Commission and consulting with legal counsel as to the validity of the contract and the memorandum of understanding.
The Inspector General found city officials: failed to analyze the financial impact of the contract as required under city rules; voted to approve the contract on the same day it was introduced; improperly invoked a rule in order to allow councilors with conflicts of interest to vote on the contract; and city councilors and Zanni mayor “neglected their obligations as public officials to exercise care and due diligence on behalf of Methuen’s residents.”
The contract’s terms would raise salaries for some of the 26 sergeants, lieutenants and captains on the force by more than 100-percent.
For example, the average salary for a police captain would increase more than 180-percent from the prior contract to $432,295 per year. The captains’ salaries would surpass those of the Massachusetts’ State Police Colonel, Boston’s Police Commissioner, Chicago’s Police Superintendent, Los Angeles’ Police Commissioner and New York City’s Police Commissioner.
The contract’s pay increases would have far exceeded the police department’s budget. After the raises came to light, current Mayor James Jajuga signed the memorandum of understanding which outlined somewhat smaller raises for superior officers, but still well above the level the department’s budget can support. As a result, the city has issued layoff notices last week to 50 officers, about half of the police department’s uniformed staff.
Even though the mayor has been paying the superior officers the salaries outlined in the memorandum of understanding, the City Council never approved the memorandum of understanding as required under state law and city rules. Therefore, the contract may not be enforceable.
Captain Greg Gallant, President of the superior officers union, sent Boston 25 News the following statement:
"Methuen Superior police union officials relate they are not concerned with the finding. Any incompetence or malfeasance found on the city side will not negate the validity of last years agreed upon Collectively Bargained Agreement with the union. It's disheartening that this has remained an issue within the city for the past year and a half, and that the city council has rebuked our effort to resolve."
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