Haverhill Places Harbormaster on Paid Leave Following Arraignment on Domestic Violence Charges

Haverhill District Court. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill Harbormaster Michael J. Vets is on paid leave from his city job following his arraignment Friday in Haverhill District Court on three domestic violence-related charges.

Vets, of East Broadway, Haverhill, was charged Thursday with two counts of assault and battery on a family and/or household member and strangulation or suffocation stemming from incidents last May and September at his home.

“Vets is on paid admin leave as is the city’s standard protocol when charged with a crime,” said Shawn Regan, spokesman for Mayor James J. Fiorentini, early Friday afternoon.

Fire Chief Robert M. O’Brien, who is the harbormaster’s superior, said the fire department, itself, will fill in for Vets. “We always respond in tandem. Whenever there is an emergency, we always call out and the fire department responds and the harbormaster responds if we require him to.”

Haverhill Police were dispatched to Vets’ home last night around 6:30 for a complaint of verbal abuse that began a week ago. The family member told police the incident was not physical, but two previous occurrences—May 14 and another on Labor Day—were violent.

According to a police report, the family member said Vets pushed her six times during the May argument. A short time later, Vets allegedly “pushed her against a barn door with Michael’s hand in a fist holding the sweatshirt pushing into her neck, restricting her ability to breath.” Police quoted her as saying, “I thought I was going to die.”

The Labor Day incident involved an allegation Vets “placed his hands on her upper shoulder chest area and pinned her to the chair while yelling and berating her.”

Vets’ arrest did not appear in the Haverhill Police log because of a 2014 state law approved by the legislature and signed by then-Gov. Deval Patrick. The legislation bans the release of “any information concerning responses to reports of domestic violence, rape or sexual assault or…any entry concerning the arrest of a person for assault, assault and battery or violation of a protective order where the victim is a family or household member.”

In “The Unwarranted Secrecy of Criminal Justice Information in Massachusetts” for the Boston Bar Journal, Attorney Jeffrey J. Pyle, a partner at Prince Lobel Tye, wrote, “The exclusion also may dampen public awareness about violence in the community…prevent the public from learning about violence perpetuated by public officials or other persons holding positions of trust, and mask other criminal charges that may accompany domestic violence arrests, such as drug and firearms possession.”

Vets returns to Haverhill District Court for a pre-trial hearing March 28.

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