Haverhill School Board Member Wood Files Federal Suit Over Losing Police Jobs to Background Check

Mayoral candidate and School Committee member Scott W. Wood. (Jay Saulnier photograph for WHAV News.)

Haverhill School Committee member and former mayoral candidate Scott W. Wood Jr., who withdrew from this year’s final election amid misconduct allegations and a poor preliminary showing, Friday filed suit against the city and others in federal court.

Wood promised when he withdrew that he would be “addressing and clearing my name from the baseless accusations and falsehoods that have circulated.” The suit was filed against Haverhill and Wenham, where Wood lost jobs as a police officer, and the two communities’ police departments.

Wood largely raises the same issues he filed in his June suit in state court that he has since withdrawn. His lawyer, Sean R. Cronin of Boston, describes the matter as “unlawfully based employment decisions upon an unlawful, flawed, unreliable and unsubstantiated 2013 background report that the City of Haverhill agreed to destroy.” The suit notes Wood entered into an agreement with Haverhill during May 2013—the same month he accepted employment as a Wenham police officer—to destroy the background check. The investigation and another one last year alleged racist and sexist language and unwelcome sexual advances.

Former Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro told WHAV in June, the agreement was intended to give Wood “three years to mature up.” DeNaro, however, wrote to the city’s personnel director Feb. 13, 2013, “it is my recommendation that the city request Civil Service permanently remove this candidate from consideration as a Haverhill police officer now, as well as for future tests.”

The lawsuit contends, “None of the allegations were supported by evidence” despite a purported State Police release of FBI instant messages transcripts involving alleged comments by Wood during his 2007 School Committee re-election campaign. The State Police documents show 64 pages of messages between David Keith, sentenced in 2014 to 78 months for the distribution of child pornography,  and Wood, as detailed in the 2013 background investigation by since-retired Deputy Police Chief Donald Thompson and a second check by Haverhill Police Capt. Meaghan Paré in 2022.

While little new information is introduced in the suit, Wood notes his city agreement is in writing, contains the provision “to dispose of all copies of the background report from Donald Thompson within one year” and names a retired Haverhill detective as the source of the resurfaced 2013 background check. The city previously refused WHAV’s public records request to turn over the pact.

The agreement was apparently signed despite U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Brady v. Maryland in 1963 and Giglio v. United States in 1972 that suggest prosecutors have an obligation to keep such information and notify defense lawyers of, for example, police misconduct that might speak to the credibility of officers testifying in criminal trials.

Wood was sworn in as a reserve patrolman during the fall of 2020 after Mayor James J. Fiorentini petitioned the Haverhill City Council to submit a home rule petition to the legislature to allow Wood to serve despite being above the age limit. Methuen, responding to a WHAV public records requests, confirms Wood began working there March 13, 2019 and resigned as a part-time, intermittent police officer there on the same day he was sworn in in Haverhill.

Wood asks a jury to find he is the victim of breach of contract, business interference that cost him his Wenham job, defamation by current and former police chiefs in Haverhill and Wenham; retaliation by the two communities after he hired lawyers; denial of hearings before termination; civil rights violations; loss of privacy when background investigations were revealed; and Haverhill’s disclosure of electronic communications in its release of Wood’s 2013 background report.

Wood asks for back pay, reinstatement to his police jobs, amounts for “emotional distress” and other relief. Besides Haverhill and Wenham and their police departments, the suit targets current Haverhill Police Chief Robert P. Pistone, former interim Haverhill Police Chief Anthony Haugh and current Wenham Police Chief Kevin DiNapoli.

Neither Haverhill nor Wenham has yet responded to WHAV’s request for comment.

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