Grand Jury Indicts Former Methuen Police Chief Solomon, Officer Fountain for Fraud, Corruption

Former Methuen Police Chief Joseph E. Solomon and former Methuen Police Officer Sean Fountain were indicted Thursday by a statewide grand jury convened at the request of the attorney general’s office. The indictments stem from a request last January by Essex County District Attorney Paul F. Tucker for a joint investigation with the state attorney general’s office. Tucker said in a statement, “In January, after review of various reports from the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission and Office of the Inspector General’s Office outlining past serious misconduct by Methuen Police Department officials, District Attorney Paul Tucker contacted state counterparts at the attorney general’s office to form a partnership to further investigate. This resulted in a month’s long investigation and grand jury proceedings, resulting in multiple indictments.”

Methuen Mayor Neil Perry and Police Chief Scott J. McNamara applauded the legal movement. Perry called it “truly a watershed day in the history of the City of Methuen,” adding the indictments against each “underscores that no one is above the law.” McNamara said, “One of my most pressing priorities since my first day as police chief has been our work to regain the trust of our community.”

The indictments arise from Solomon’s elevating part-time, intermittent officers into full-time positions in defiance of civil service laws and subsequent efforts to deceive others into believing Fountain graduated from a police academy when he had not.

Jordan of Haverhill, Friend and Gagnon of West Newbury Receive National Commendations

A Haverhill High School senior and two Pentucket Regional High School seniors were among the 34,000 students across the country to be named Commended Students in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program for their test scores. Liam Jordan of Haverhill was handed his letter and award by Haverhill High School Principal Michael Downs, while Lillian Friend and Ashley Gagnon, both of West Newbury, will soon receive their letters of commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and the Pentucket Regional district. “Those being named Commended Students have demonstrated outstanding potential for academic success,” said a National Merit Scholarship Corporation spokesperson. “These students represent a valuable national resource; recognizing their accomplishments, as well as the key role their schools play on their academic development, is vital to the advancement of educational excellence in our nation. We hope that this recognition will help broaden their educational opportunities and encourage them as they continue their pursuit of academic success.”

Commended students placed among the top 50,000 students who entered the 2024 competition by taking the 2022 Preliminary/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Merrimac Schools Hire Four Teachers, Promote Another to Administration

A Haverhill woman has been hired as a special education teacher at Merrimac’s Helen R. Donaghue School, while three other teachers were also hired a new administrator named at Merrimac schools. Cecelia Burke is a Haverhill native and a UMass Amherst graduate, licensed in special education. She has served as a substitute in Merrimac schools and a teacher in Extended Year Summer Programming. At Dr. Frederick N. Sweetsir School, Barbara Kyle was brought on board as a special education teacher and Sarah Peterson and Mollie Watson were hired as second grade teachers. Kathleen Sullivan, who has been Merrimac school’s special education coordinator for years, expands her role as an administrator on the leadership team.

Local Nurses at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Methuen Plan Strike Today, Expect Lock-Out Next 2 Days

Registered nurses and nurse practitioners working at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Methuen say they plan to strike today for one day in an attempt to reach a fair contract. Further, a spokesperson said they expect to be locked out of their jobs for the following two days. “It is outrageous that Dana-Farber executives would rather spend untold money on travelers and lock us out rather than simply meet the needs of nurses and support the cancer care we provide in Merrimack Valley,” said spokesperson Kate Mitchell. “What does it say about Dana-Farber executives that they cannot compromise with nurses on wages and benefits, but they can bring in outside nurses to extend a one-day strike into three days? Dana-Farber’s decision confounds us and will undermine cancer care access in our community.”

The union charged Dana-Farber has made “minimal movement since nurses announced their strike, including no agreement on benefits and daily overtime standards.”

Methuen Firefighters Local 1691 is joining Massachusetts Nurses Association in support of the strike.

Federal Judge Sentences Haverhill Man, 26, to Eight Years in Prison for Drug Dealing

A 26-year-old Haverhill man was sentenced this week in federal court in Boston for distributing cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl and conspiring to distribute fentanyl and cocaine. Elijah Declet was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani to eight years in prison and four years of supervised release. Declet pleaded guilty March 29. Declet was charged in November 2021 along with 12 others in connection with a large drug conspiracy centering around the Gangster Disciples in Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen. The investigation, which began in August 2020, intercepted communications between gang leaders, members and drug suppliers relating to their alleged distribution of fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine and Suboxone in Massachusetts, Maine and southern New Hampshire as well as into Essex County Jail.

Haverhill Man, 19, Pleads Guilty in Federal Court for Role in Stealing 11 Pistols, Rifle from Dealer

A 19-year-old Haverhill man is the latest to be sentenced in federal court in Concord, N.H., for his role in conspiring to steal firearms from a dealer. U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young said Gary Ortiz Jr., 19, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Laplante to 21 months in prison and two years of supervised release.  Ortiz was also ordered to pay $5,100 in restitution. As WHAV reported earlier, Ortiz pleaded guilty May 1. He and Jaythean Diaz of Lawrence were charged with breaking into Second Amendment Outdoors in Derry, N.H., and stealing 11 pistols and one rifle. They were indicted last year.

State Awards Grant to Pentucket Regional to add Manufacturing, Environmental and Life Sciences

Pentucket Regional High School is one of 31 high schools across the state to receive a grant aimed at creating new Innovation Career Pathways for students. Pentucket, which was awarded a $25,000, is one of 18 schools planning to add Innovation Career Pathways for the first time. The school will use the planning grant to pursue establishing two different pathways for students—Manufacturing and Environmental and Life Sciences. “Pentucket sees this as an amazing opportunity to connect with industry partners and provide our students with advanced learning that has practical applications. We are looking forward to leveraging all of the resources from the region, the department of education, and other districts engaging in Innovative Pathways work too,” said Assistant Superintendent of the Pentucket Regional School District Brent Conway.

Local Chambers of Commerce Receive Convention and Visitors Bureau Grants to Promote Tourism

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Both the Greater Haverhill and Merrimack Valley Chambers of Commerce last week were awarded mini grants from the North of Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau to encourage tourism throughout the 34 cities and towns of Essex County. The Chambers join other organizations in sharing almost $48,000 in grants. The Haverhill Chamber will use its grant to support its 2024 Visitor Guide while the Merrimack Valley Chamber will put the money in it 2024 Business, Consumer and Visitor Guide. “Our legislators understand how vital tourism efforts are to the local economy, so they allot funds to the North of Boston CVB, which we are happy to share with innovative projects that draw more visitors to the region,” said Bureau Executive Director Nancy Gardella. “We support their smart marketing ideas, and we recognize their ongoing efforts to keep our destination top of mind with the nation and the world.”

North of Boston members, local chambers of commerce and destination marketing organizations gathered with local officials last Wednesday at the Maria Miles Visitor Center to honor the tourism and hospitality industries that drive the local economy.