EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 21, 2013

City worker jailed, fired after failing drug test

DPW employee held without bail after violating probation, court papers show

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Two weeks ago, city worker Jonathan Hernandez pleaded guilty to drug possession charges, after prosecutors dropped other charges that he tried to distribute illegal drugs.

He received one year of probation and was ordered to undergo regular drug tests to keep his freedom.

But now, he is behind bars after tests showed he had cocaine, marijuana and Oxycontin in his system, according to paperwork at Haverhill District Court.

Hernandez, 23, was taken into custody Monday after testing positive for drug use, the court paperwork showed. He has been on unpaid leave from his job with the Public Works Department since December, when police charged him with several drug offenses.

A spokesman for the Essex District Attorney’s Office said Hernandez will remain in custody at Middleton jail at least until April 19, when a probation hearing will happen.

In an interview yesterday, Mayor James Fiorentini said the city has decided to fire Hernandez and that he will be notified by mail today or tomorrow.

“He can’t perform his job due to the loss of his commercial driver’s license and because he’s incarcerated,” Fiorentini said.

Hernandez was arrested Dec. 6 and charged with possession to distribute a Class B substance (rock cocaine), possession of a Class B substance (Oxycodone), possession to distribute a Class A substance (morphine) and possession of a Class A substance (Suboxone).

His arrest came after a police drug task force investigation into drug sales at the Groveland Street apartment building where he was living.

According to police reports, officers found items in his possession that included scales and clear plastic bags that are “commonly-used for weighing and packaging illegal drugs for street sales.”

However, the district attorney’s office dropped two counts of possession to distribute Class A and Class B substances as part of Hernandez’s plea agreement. Prosecutors have declined to say why the distribution charges were dropped.

As part of the plea, Hernandez was required to remain drug and alcohol free and submit to random drug screenings.

He was also ordered to forfeit $813 that police seized during his arrest and to participate in the OCC Level III program, an intense level of community-based, criminal justice supervision.

In a prior interview, the woman who owns the 94-98 Groveland St. apartment building where Hernandez was arrested said other tenants told her cars and trucks, including city vehicles, stopped there for short periods and people came and went at all hours of the day and night.

She said license plate numbers and descriptions of those vehicles were given to police.