Methuen Police chief, captain put on leave after IG finds ‘leadership failures’ with high-paying contracts

Methuen’s police chief and a captain who heads the superior officers’ union have been placed on paid administrative leave following a scathing report from the state inspector general about their handling of contracts that would send pay soaring among ranking officers.
Chief Joseph Solomon and Capt. Gregory Gallant were put on leave Wednesday afternoon shortly after the report from Inspector General Glenn Cunha — titled “Leadership Failures in Methuen Police Contracts” — was made public. Capt. Kristopher McCarthy will serve as acting chief, multiple sources and the city confirmed.
“Actions taken today are not considered disciplinary at this time,” Methuen Mayor Neil Perry said in a statement to the Herald. “I intend to follow the appropriate guidance of the Inspector General and will carefully consider this report, the soon to be received audit, and all applicable laws in arriving at a proper course of action.”
Cunha wrote that his office “found a failure of leadership at all levels” regarding contracts approved in 2017 for Solomon and the superior officers that included raises of 35% to 183% for sergeants, lieutenants and captains, with salaries for the latter estimated to rise to $432,000 on average. And language in the contracts would set the already well-paid Solomon — who’s currently earning more than the top cops of the Boston and state police — up to be one of the highest-paid police chiefs in the country.
“This total failure of leadership by Methuen’s former mayor and city council allowed Chief Solomon and Captain Gallant to put their personal financial interests ahead of the interests of the citizens they swore an oath to protect and serve,” Cunha said in a statement. “Everyone involved failed the people of Methuen.”
In his 33-page report, which stretches to 153 pages with exhibits, Cunha wrote that Gallant, the union head, “knowingly included language” in the superior officers’ contract that “had never been agreed to” by the city and that inflated officers’ salaries by expanding the definition of their “base pay.”
Solomon, who represented the city in contract negotiations “knew” about the “unapproved language … but failed to tell” the city officials or the negotiating team, Cunha said.
Former Mayor Stephen Zanni agreed to “unprecedented changes” to the superior officers’ contract “without understanding their financial impact” or requesting a review by the city auditor or solicitor. Zanni and the city council at the time believed the three-year contract provided raises of no more than 2%, and the full financial impact wasn’t realized until his successor took office.
Cunha concluded that Zanni “breached his fiduciary duty” to the city in his handling of the contracts. He said that Gallant “acted in his own self-interest and in bad faith.” And Cunha wrote that Solomon both “violated his obligations” and “likely violated the conflict-of-interest laws by participating in the negotiations” for both the superior and patrol officers’ contracts, of which his salary is tied to the latter.
“Chief Solomon’s role in both the patrol officers’ and superior officers’ negotiations was to provide police expertise to the City,” the report reads. “However, Chief Solomon went well beyond advising the mayor and instead he acted to benefit the patrol officers’ union and himself.”
Solomon declined comment. Zanni and Gallant did not immediately return calls for comment.
Steve Saba, a member of the city council that voted “no confidence” in Solomon over the summer, called the report’s findings “outrageous and shocking.”
“They fully validate the concerns that we have been raising as a body and vindicate the battle that we’ve been waging on behalf of the hard-pressed taxpayers of Methuen for more than two years,” Saba said.
The IG’s office called in February 2019 for the Methuen City Council to “rescind” the superiors’ contract. The city and the superiors’ union are currently litigating a contract-related grievance with an arbitrator.

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