EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 10, 2013

Three Haverhill cops await civil service rulings

One fights firing; two others want suspensions reversed

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Three Haverhill police officers are awaiting decisions from the state Civil Service Commission on their appeals of punishment by the city, which included one officer being fired and the others being suspended without pay.

The appeals involve two separate cases of alleged misconduct by the officers.

Officer Victor “Manny” Pellot was fired last month after being charged criminally with stalking and harassing his estranged wife and her boyfriend. He is also charged with misusing police resources and databases to search the boyfriend’s background.

Mayor James Fiorentini’s decision to fire Pellot followed a local Civil Service hearing that concluded earlier this summer on police Chief Alan DeNaro’s recommendation to terminate the officer’s employment.

DeNaro’s recommendation was the result of an internal Haverhill police investigation triggered by Pellot’s Feb. 27 arrest by state police on criminal stalking and threatening charges. The charges stem from an incident in which Pellot allegedly chased his wife, Doreena, and her boyfriend, Thomas Ratte of Merrimack, N.H., through Haverhill in his personal vehicle, confronting them at one point, and then continuing the chase on Interstate 495.

A report by City Solicitor William Cox, who served as hearing officer in the case, documents four instances in which Pellot aggressively confronted his wife and Ratte, including one in which he threatened to kill Doreena Pellot.

Pellot has pleaded not guilty to two counts of stalking and the criminal case is ongoing.

Meanwhile, Pellot appealed the mayor’s decision to fire him to the Civil Service Commission. Cox said a hearing is scheduled Tuesday to set a date for Pellot’s appeal, which will take place at the commission’s Boston office. Neither the patrolman’s union nor Pellot’s union lawyer, Stephen Pfaff of Boston, have responded to requests for comment.

In the other cases, the Civil Service Commission last month upheld the city’s decision to suspend Lt. William Leeman and patrolman Christopher Pagliuca without pay for their handling of a March 30, 2012, incident in which a retired state trooper crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a utility pole on Route 113 in West Newbury, snapping it in half and cutting power to the surrounding area for almost 11 hours. Pagliuca was suspended for five days and Leeman for 10 days.

Shortly after the civil service ruling, police unions representing Leeman and Pagliuca said the officers would appeal their suspensions and the commission’s ruling supporting the suspensions to Superior Court.

Earlier this week, Cox said those unions have formally asked the commission to reconsider its ruling in the case, and that both sides are awaiting that decision. The officers must wait for that decision before they can appeal to court, Cox said.

According to police reports, Charles Noyes, a former state police deputy superintendent, crashed his SUV in West Newbury, then kept driving with his air bags deployed until police found him in the travel lane just over the Haverhill line near the Rocks Village Bridge.

An internal Haverhill police investigation concluded that Noyes was given special treatment by West Newbury and Haverhill police officers due to his previous state police position, and that officers acted to cover up their actions in investigating the incident.

The Haverhill probe found that officers declined to arrest Noyes or charge him with drunken driving, even though they had enough evidence to do so, and that reports by officers were so poorly written that prosecutors could not later charge Noyes with drunken driving.

Appeals from punishment by the Haverhill officers rely on the fact West Newbury Sergeant Daniel Cena was the first officer on the scene and, according to police reports, was the only officer who witnessed Noyes at the wheel. It was Cena’s decision to charge Noyes with leaving the scene of the accident, but not to charge him with drunken driving and not to arrest him, police reports in the case said.

An outside investigation commissioned by West Newbury concluded that Cena and another town officer on the scene, Royster Johnson, did not violate any department rules, regulations or policies in their handling of the incident. That report, by retired Methuen police Chief Bruce MacDougall, contradicts the findings of the Haverhill probe that officers from both departments gave Noyes special treatment.

Noyes eventually was sentenced in Newburyport District Court to six months of unsupervised probation after admitting there were sufficient facts to find him guilty of negligent driving and leaving the scene of an accident that caused property damage.