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December 13, 2013

'Last chance' for Methuen firefighter convicted of DWI, pot possession

METHUEN — Fire Lt. James Garrity has been suspended without pay for one month and must submit to random drug and alcohol testing for three years, under a “last chance agreement” signed last week in response to his recent conviction for drunk driving and pot possession in New Hampshire.

Garrity, 48, of Haverhill was arrested on St. Patrick’s Day in Plaistow, N.H. He was also convicted of drunk driving in New Hampshire five years ago, but will keep his job under disciplinary terms approved last week by Mayor Stephen Zanni.

Garrity began his 30-calendar-day suspension without pay Saturday and is slated to return to work Jan. 6 as long as he passes a drug and alcohol test. Garrity has also agreed to three years of “random and reasonable-suspicion drug and alcohol testing.” Garrity must submit to no more than 12 random tests per year. The tests will be scheduled by the city and conducted at an approved laboratory. Garrity must submit to the tests immediately after receiving notice.

The terms of Garrity’s discipline are outlined in a two-page “last chance agreement” signed Dec. 6 by Garrity, Zanni and firefighter union president Tim Sheehy. Zanni could not be reached for comment yesterday.

“Jimmy’s always been a great firefighter,” said Sheehy. “He’s a great lieutenant. He’s going to have to pay for what he did. I think the punishment fits the crime and I think the mayor made the right choice.”

Under the agreement, Garrity will face a hearing for immediate termination if he tests positive for drugs or alcohol, or if he fails to submit to a test. Garrity and the firefighter union have also waived their rights to “grieve, litigate or otherwise dispute” the 30-day suspension and drug testing, according to the document.

“All parties agree that this suspension agreement shall be considered a ‘last chance’ agreement and that the terms of this agreement are considered to be absolute conditions of continued employment,” reads the document. “Any type of similar or serious future misconduct or violation of this agreement will result in an immediate hearing for termination of Garrity’s employment with the city and all parties recognize that such future misconduct would serve as just cause for immediate termination and forfeiture of employment.”

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