Commission Calls Methuen’s Use of Former Councilor as Police Officer ‘Brazen Example of Abuse’

Former Methuen Police Chief Joseph E. Solomon. (Courtesy photograph.)

The state Civil Service Commission ruled Thursday the former Methuen police chief’s use of a former city council chairman as a full-time police officer is a “most brazen example of abuse which occurred (in plain sight)” of using non-civil service personnel in the department.

Further, commissioners said former “Chief (Joseph E.) Solomon and other City officials from prior administrations knowingly submitted false information to the civil service unit of the state’s Human Resources Division” and “stonewalled requests for public records.”

The report said the appointment of Councilor Sean J. Fountain, a former North Andover firefighter, as an intermittent police officer was “improper” because he was not certified by the state’s Municipal Police Training Committee to serve as a full-time police officer, there is no evidence he completed a physical or medical examination, was over the city’s own age restriction of 35 at the time of appointment and resided outside of Methuen in violation of city policies.

Commissioners, led by Chair Christopher C. Bowman, lauded Mayor Neil Perry for “taking several steps to investigate—and ultimately end—the city’s use of non-civil service intermittent police officers,” and singled out for praise City Council Public Safety Chair Michael Simard and Personnel Coordinator Jill Stackelin. On the other hand, they wrote former Mayors Stephen N. Zanni and James P. Jajuga “failed to provide sufficient oversight to prevent the unlawful employment of Fountain and other full-time intermittent police officers.”

Perry issued his own statement Thursday, saying, “I pledge that the city looks forward to continuing to work cooperatively with the Commission as it complies with the Commission’s orders and will implement additional best practices for Civil Service hiring and compliance.” The mayor added, “Finally, I wish to make it clear that the City’s previously-reported investigation into the training credentials of Sean Fountain, initiated prior to the issuance of the Commission’s report, remains open and ongoing.”

The Civil Service Commission ordered the city to name candidates potentially denied appointments as a civil service police or reserve police officers “for appropriate relief on their behalf” and show controls to prevent repeats of such illegal appointments. It also recommended the city “continue to explore legal action against Joseph Solomon, as well as Sean Fountain, notwithstanding Chief Solomon’s retirement and Sean Fountain’s resignation” and “implement a streamlined and transparent system for processing and responding to public records requests.”

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