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.”
Under the agreement, Garrity and the union also waived their rights to dispute such a termination in the future.
Garrity pleaded guilty Nov. 14 to driving while intoxicated (first offense with a prior conviction within 10 years) and marijuana possession — both Class B misdemeanors in New Hampshire, according to the agreement.
Garrity’s recent arrest occurred about one mile from the Massachusetts border at around 10:50 p.m. Police radar recorded his white 2011 Ford Econovan traveling 66 mph in a 35 mph zone, according to court paperwork.
Garrity was driving alone and heading southbound on Route 125 when he was pulled over. Garrity failed a number of field sobriety tests after the arresting officer noticed he had trouble answering her questions.
The officer searched Garrity’s vehicle and found a “small amount” of marijuana on the passenger-side floor, Plaistow deputy police Chief Kathleen Jones previously told The Eagle-Tribune.
Garrity’s license was suspended for two years as a result of the conviction. He was also fined $434 for the marijuana possession conviction. A speeding charge was dismissed. Garrity must enter an impaired driver program before getting his license back and will then be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in his vehicle.
Garrity began working for the city in July 1993 and was promoted to lieutenant in February.
Garrity spent the week following his arrest March 17 on paid vacation. The incident then landed him one week of paid administrative leave. He returned to work March 30.
Garrity was also convicted in 2009 on a drunk driving charge out of New Hampshire and had his license temporarily revoked as a result, but the arrest and conviction were never reported at City Hall and the Methuen Fire Department.