Embattled Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon is retiring — an announcement made weeks after a scathing state report shone a light on his role in securing his department’s lucrative employment contracts.
A veteran of the city’s police force for over three decades, Solomon was placed on administrative leave in December following the release of a state inspector general report alleging possible misconduct when he and other officials drafted contracts to significantly boost their own pay.
In a Jan. 8 letter to Mayor Neil Perry, Solomon announced his intent to retire as he turns 60 years old this month, adding that he believes the decision is “in the best interest” of the city, the police department, and his family.
Although a copy of the letter was not readily available from Perry’s office on Monday afternoon, Solomon provided the correspondence to The Valley Patriot, a local media outlet that has previously defended the chief.
“While I remain confident in my ability to defend my personal and professional performance in any forum, the ceaseless baseless attacks on my integrity, together with the constant political interference in the management of the department, have created a negative environment that is detrimental to the city, the dedicated members of the department, and to my family and friends,” wrote Solomon, who has helmed the department for the past 18 years.
On Twitter, Solomon’s account — which is private — was updated to reflect he is retired.
Perry was anticipated to release a statement later on Monday.
In its report, the Office of the Inspector General, or OIG, stated that it found “a failure of leadership at all levels” of government surrounding a collective bargaining agreement between the city and the union representing the department’s superior officers as well as Solomon’s own employment contract.
Solomon represented the city in negotiations with both the superior officers’ and patrol officers’ unions even though his contract tied his pay into both of those agreements, the report says. Solomon also knew a police captain had changed language in the former’s contract — thereby creating 35 percent to 183 percent raises — but did not notify colleagues on the city’s negotiations team, according to the OIG.
“The unapproved language indirectly – but substantially – increased Chief Solomon’s compensation,” the report says. “Chief Solomon remained silent about this change even after the financial impact of the Superiors’ Contract came to light and even after the City was facing a serious budget shortfall.”
Additionally, the OIG found former Mayor Stephen Zanni failed to exercise “due diligence or sound management practices” when negotiating Solomon’s controversial contract extension in 2017. That deal cemented Solomon as one of the highest-paid police chiefs in the country, with a yearly salary upwards of $300,000 — more than both the Boston Police Commissioner and the Massachusetts State Police colonel make annually.
Solomon objected to the findings of the report in his letter to Perry, and wrote that he never spoke to anyone at the agency as it was conducting its review.
“I would be remiss if I failed to note my strong disagreement with the provisions of the recently released report of the Massachusetts OIG that relate directly to my personal performance,” Solomon wrote. “Since I was never interviewed by anyone from the OIG – never given the most basic common courtesy to respond to accusations I believe are blatantly false – I am frustrated and deeply disappointed. Although I am certainly willing and able to fight as I have in the past, as I noted earlier in this letter, I have decided to act in the best interest of our community and the department I love and respect. The impact that another long, drawn-out fight would have on the city, the department, and on my family is something I believe should be avoided at all costs.”
Still, Solomon is also the subject of a still-ongoing probe launched by the state Civil Service Commission regarding the department’s hiring and promotions under his tenure. An earlier Boston Globe report detailed how Solomon’s critics alleged the chief gave out jobs and promotions as favors to city councilors and their relatives after they voted for his contract extension.
Furthermore, a management audit ordered by Perry last year is expected to be filed soon and is anticipated to be critical of Solomon’s leadership, according to the newspaper.
In his letter to Perry, Solomon said he is proud of his years of service to the city and touted a lengthy list of accomplishments, from introducing innovative technology to the department to tackling the opioid epidemic with a supportive approach, and launching a local police academy.
“Even at a time when a few local political figures have chosen to build their political popularity by attacking me and the good men and women of the department, I firmly believe the citizens of our city feel safe and secure because of the competence and professionalism of our officers and staff,” he wrote.
Solomon added that it’s time for the department to move on under “new leadership and without the political distractions of the past few years.”
“I have always fought for what I believe has been in the best interest of our police department and our collective obligation to serve and protect our neighbors throughout the city,” Solomon wrote. “This decision — to move on personally and professionally — is made with exactly that goal in mind.”
Some city officials on Monday said they do not think Solomon’s retirement should mean the end of the controversy surrounding him, and that he should still face consequences for his alleged misconduct.
They also expressed concern that Solomon will seek a pricey payout of his unused vacation days and time off that only he recorded, according to the Globe.
“The chief is kidding himself if he thinks that his abrupt retirement is going to wipe the slate clean,” City Councilor D.J. Beauregard told the newspaper. “We’re not going to give corruption a free pass. We still need federal and/or state criminal authorities to prosecute corruption in Methuen. This is a criminal conspiracy that needs to be investigated thoroughly.”
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