Ethics Commission Enforcement Division Asks for Penalties Against Former Methuen Chief Solomon

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

The State Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division says it finds “reasonable cause” to believe former Methuen Police Chief Joseph E. Solomon took advantage of a conflict of interest to raise his own salary higher than $375,000 and hire “intermittent” officers already working for his private security firm.

Commission Chief Enforcement Counsel Monica Brookman asks the Commission to “levy such fines, issue such orders and grant such other relief as may be appropriate” as punishment. Brookman alleges Solomon violated the conflict-of-interest law by including changes in a revised draft collective bargaining agreement that would increase his salary without notifying the mayor or any other city officials of the changes or their financial impacts.”

The Show Cause Order also alleges Solomon “provided unwarranted benefits to five intermittent police officers and sent the city’s human resources director a fabricated training certificate and a fabricated letter to allow Methuen City Councilor Sean J. Fountain, who was also a police officer, to continue to be paid.”

Brookman notes Solomon’s contract called for him to be paid “2.6 times the highest paid permanent, full time police officer.”

According to the Order, the superior officers’ union sought in 2017, and the city agreed to, a change in the way base pay was calculated in their collective bargaining agreement. “The leader of the superior officers’ union, in consultation with Solomon, subsequently added a provision that would have a stacking effect on compensation, resulting in estimated salary increases between 35% and 183%.”

The order alleges, Solomon, with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, understood the financial impact of the changes, but did not inform other members of the negotiating team of the changes.

Further, it alleges, Solomon emailed the president of the Methuen Police Patrolmen’s Association a new, revised draft patrolmen’s agreement with the same change, but did not notify the mayor or city’s negotiators and “knew the change would substantially affect his own salary, which would increase by an estimated $90,000 to over $375,000…”

In January 2022, an independent arbitrator determined the superior officers’ agreement was invalid because city officials approving the contract did not understand what they agreed to.

The order also alleges Solomon violated the conflict-of-interest law by including three employees of his private security firm and a Methuen City Councilor as non-civil service intermittent police officers. The chief allegedly also recommended hiring five intermittent officers on a full-time basis when there were available candidates on the civil service list, continued to employ the five without proof that at least four had not completed required police training and presented the Methuen human resources director with a fabricated police training completion certificate and a fabricated police training sponsorship letter on behalf of the city councilor, which allowed the City Councilor to continue to be paid as a police officer. In 2019, Solomon issued an order allowing intermittent police officers the same work privileges as civil service officers, contrary to civil service law, according to the Order.

The Commission will schedule a public hearing on the allegations against Solomon within 90 days.

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