EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

June 13, 2014

City, officer want punishment deal kept secret

Patrolman Rick Welch was disciplined for mishandling a police call that involved man who died from bee stings

HAVERHILL — The city has come to an agreement with Patrolman Rick Welch on his punishment for mishandling a police call in an incident that involved a man who died from bee stings last summer.

Both Welch and City Solicitor William Cox declined The Eagle-Tribune’s request for a copy of the agreement, however. Neither would discuss the terms of the settlement.

In December 2013, Mayor James Fiorentini suspended Welch without pay for 15 days following a disciplinary hearing on the matter. Welch appealed the mayor’s decision and the city settled the case with Welch prior to a May 20 arbitration hearing.

Cox said the patrolman’s union claims the settlement agreement is not a public document. He said he has asked the state Supervisor of Public Records for an opinion on the matter.

Welch, a nine-year veteran of the Police Department who is also president of the patrolman’s union, said both sides agreed to keep the agreement secret.

“The best I can say about this matter is that it is a misconception that I have an issue with its release,” Welch said in an email. “We are working through the details of whether or not it will be released with the city.”

The Eagle-Tribune has requested a copy of the agreement under the Freedom of Information law.

The settlement follows an open disciplinary hearing last fall at which Welch and other witnesses in the case testified. Police reports and documents in the case were publicly released at the hearing. A report that included findings of fact by the hearing officer was released after the hearing, as well as a final decision on Welch’s discipline by the mayor.

Welch requested the disciplinary hearing be open to the public and the city agreed. Such hearings are usually private, but can be open to the public if both sides agree.

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