Haverhill Responds Wood Ineligible to be Police Officer; Complaint Charges City Council Broke Law

Then-mayoral candidate and School Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr. speaks outside Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News photograph.)

The City of Haverhill is fighting back against allegations made by Scott W. Wood Jr. in his recent legal action and insisting Wood is not eligible in any event to serve as a police officer under Massachusetts law.

Wood, a School Committee member and current mayoral candidate, filed suit against the city last month, alleging the city used a 2013 background check to justify removing him from active employment as a city police officer. Wood, through his lawyer, argued Haverhill agreed to destroy the background investigation conducted by then-Deputy Police Chief Donald Thompson. Wood told WHAV in a statement, “This document was never authenticated or formerly attributed to me and is full of lies.” Responding to a WHAV public records request Friday, attorney Michele E. Randazzo disputed Wood’s claim.

“Importantly, the city denies the allegations made by Mr. Wood that it or its employees acted improperly in conducting the background investigation in and around 2013. The city is confident that it will be established in the litigation that the contents of the 2013 background investigation are accurate and not false, as alleged by Mr. Wood, and further, that the city took sufficient efforts subsequent to 2013 to independently verify the very claims that Mr. Wood has publicly claimed are false,” she wrote.

Randazzo, of the Boston firm of KP Law, went further, saying, “Regardless of whatever might be said (or denied) about Mr. Wood’s background, it is a simple fact that absent attendance at either a bridge or full-time police academy, Mr. Wood is not legally eligible to serve as a police officer for any law enforcement agency in Massachusetts. How the City handled the 2013 background investigation, or any subsequent investigation or review of Mr. Wood’s background has no impact upon this fact.”

She explained Wood “never completed a full-time police academy, or attended a so-called “bridge academy” that the state has offered to reserve police officers who have been impacted by the requirement, under the Police Reform Act, that all police officers must complete or have completed a full-time police academy.”

In Wood’s suit, attorney Suzanne L. Herold, said Wood received a waiver from the Municipal Police Training Committee of the police academy training requirement. Interim Police Chief Anthony Haugh, however, took Wood off the schedule June 18, 2021 and ordered the return of his gun and badge until Wood completed the academy. The suit reports Wood objected, saying the condition is not part of his agreement with the city. The suit also notes Police Chief Robert P. Pistone did not restore Woods’s position when he took over the department.

It is Wood’s June lawsuit that first raised public awareness of the existence of the 2013 and a subsequent 2022 background check. Copies of both investigations were provided to WHAV by the Essex County District Attorney’s office. Thompson’s report alleges “unprofessional and problematic behavior” including sending text messages calling Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini, among other things, a racist term. It was said the computer messages were sent between 2007 and 2009 and intercepted by the FBI and Massachusetts State Police who were investigating another man who was under investigation for an unrelated allegation of possession of child pornography.

Before WHAV broke the stories (see “Mayoral Candidate Wood Sues Haverhill, Claims Background Check Cost Him Two Police Jobs” and “Wood Police Background Checks Allege Job Misconduct, Racism, Sexism; Former Chief Defends Hire,” detailed questions were sent to Wood and his lawyer, but no point-by-point rebuttal was returned.

U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Brady v. Maryland in 1963 and Giglio v. United States in 1972 require prosecutors collect documents and notify defense lawyers of, for example, police misconduct that might speak to the credibility of officers testifying in criminal trials.

In another development, Valley Patriot Publisher Tom Duggan sent a complaint to the city over the weekend, alleging the Haverhill City Council violated the opening meeting law Saturday, June 17, when it issued a statement referencing Wood.

“There was no public posting concerning this letter or public notice on the possible content of this letter in advance of the letter being drafted, finalized, and signed by the nine councilors. There was no public meeting. There was no opportunity for public input on the matter,” Duggan wrote.

Wood appeared on Duggan’s Paying Attention! Podcast June 22 and promised to file an open meeting law complaint. But, as late as Friday, Haverhill City Clerk Kaitlin M. Wright told WHAV she had received nothing. Similarly, the state attorney general’s office, which has jurisdiction, also reported receiving no complaints.

Duggan told WHAV, “I waited because I was told other people were doing it…When it wasn’t done, I decided to do it myself.”

All nine councilors condemned “all acts of hatred in all forms” and called for release of all investigative reports related to Wood and an investigation by the state inspector general.

Under state rules, the City Council must meet to review the complaint within 14 business days and respond in writing, copying the attorney general.

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