City Admits Secret DPW Investigation, But Refuses to Release Details; WHAV Appeals

Haverhill Public Works Department, 500 Primrose St. (WHAV News file photograph.)

After first denying the existence of an investigation into the city’s Department of Public Works, officials admit a report has been created by the Haverhill Police Department, but refuse to divulge details. (WHAV News photograph.)

The City of Haverhill admitted to WHAV last week it has investigated its Department of Public Works over drug-related allegations, but refused to detail any findings or actions it plans to take.

Describing herself as “special counsel” to the city, attorney Michele E. Randazzo acknowledged the existence of what is described as “a report prepared by the Police Department as a result of an administrative investigation.” However, Randazzo, associated with KP Law of Boston, refused to release the report.

“The City is withholding the report of the administrative investigation, however, in its entirety, under the exemptions to the Public Records Law…,” she wrote in a letter to WHAV dated last Wednesday.

The investigation is said to be part of a larger accounting that led to the arrests of two highway department employees and a former DPW employee on drug-related charges at the end of August. All is purportedly based on an anonymous letter sent to the city.

Randazzo, who is being paid an as-yet unknown sum by the city, responded to WHAV’s second request for public records. The radio station’s first request for information under the state’s Public Records Law was made Oct. 29. Haverhill Police Capt. Michael Wrenn responded Nov. 8 that “there is no such report.”

The outside law firm admitted, “the report contains details about the efforts made by police to investigate certain criminal allegations, including undercover activities and identification of other specific actions taken by police to investigate these allegations. However, Randazzo told WHAV, “The nature and extent of administrative action to be taken in light of the information contained in the requested report, is still under consideration by the city.” She explained release of the report now will “negatively influence” what future actions, if any, the city may take.

Besides last August’s arrests, Randazzo said, there are also “non-criminal” allegations.

WHAV has appealed the city’s denial to Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin’s office.

In denying disclosure, Randazzo cited such exemptions under the law as “invasion of personal privacy,” tainting the city’s “deliberative process” and prejudicing the city’s “ability to effectively investigate criminal activity in the future.”

In its appeal WHAV generally countered each exemption was applied in an “overly broad” manner. The radio station wrote, “The public has a right to know how a city department operates in order to effectively evaluate the performance of its leaders and how taxpayer money is used or wasted. There is a compelling need for public oversight.”

Specifically, “WHAV contends the ‘deliberative process’ is an invention made out of whole cloth contrived of late to thwart the public’s right to know. It is merely a ruse to avoid disclosure of records that ought to be public.”

Last August, Haverhill Police arrested DPW employees Steven Allen, of 713 North Broadway, and Erik Frasca, of 23 Verndale St., along with former city worker Kevin Moriarty, of 107 Chadwick Road, after what police said was an alleged “hand-to-hand drug transaction” outside City Hall.