Ex-Nahant fire chief admits theft of union funds
Kevin Howard, 44, a former Nahant firefighters’ union president and onetime acting fire chief, admitted to stealing from the union and was placed on three years’ probation last week in Lynn District Court.
The case was continued without a finding after Howard admitted to sufficient facts to the charges and agreed to pay $14,000 in restitution. Howard also read a letter of apology.
Judge James LaMothe’s sentence also includes administrative probation, which carries an automatic two-year sentence if the terms are violated. The Essex district attorney’s office asked for a two-year sentence with six months served, and the balance suspended for three years of probation, plus restitution and an apology.
The decision ended a two-year drama that included Howard’s allegations that firefighters had used cocaine at the fire station and that he had been threatened by current union president Joshua Mahoney. All seven active members of Fire Fighters Local 2718 at the time volunteered for drug tests, which came back negative.
Mahoney became union president after Howard was named acting chief on March 1, 2010. Mahoney said it was a suggestion by another firefighter that led the union to conduct an audit, which yielded information that Howard had allegedly been taking cash from the account and purchasing personal goods over a prolonged period of time.
“We trusted this guy, that’s the thing,’’ Mahoney said. “It never even occurred to me that he was stealing money.’’
At a meeting at the station on April 15, 2010, Mahoney said, Howard admitted taking the money, and firefighters offered him several options, including resigning from the department without making restitution, but Howard declined.
“We can see the court’s side - they don’t want to hurt his family - and the union accepts the decision,’’ Mahoney said. “Obviously we’re disappointed, and we’d like to see him do jail time, not for [stealing money], but for what he did afterward. He lied, tried to slander us, and did everything he could to ruin our reputations in a small community where people have to trust us.’’
Neil Rossman, attorney for the union, said that members suspected that Howard took as much as double the $14,000 he agreed to make in restitution.
“The family is relieved,’’ said Randy Chapman, Howard’s defense attorney. “They’d like to put this behind them, and hope everyone else can move on as well.’’
David Rattigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.