EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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December 21, 2012

City building inspector back on job after leave

Returns with list of grievances

LAWRENCE — Ten weeks after he was put on paid leave for allegedly failing to report $33 million of new development he approved, a longtime building inspector with a troubled work history returned to his job this week and presented his boss with his own allegations of wrongdoing and a list of demands and labor grievances.

Among them, Inspector Larry Hester demanded to be reimbursed for the five days he was not paid during his 10-week leave, when he otherwise received his $54,000-a-year salary.

Hester also requested a stack of records involving the work history of other employees and an accounting of the compensation they receive.

He also accused acting Inspectional Services Commissioner Peter Blanchette of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and unspecified civil rights violations in connection with Blanchette’s decision to place him on leave while the permits he failed to report are audited. Hester is African-American. Blanchette is white.

Blanchette would not comment on Hester’s allegations and demands or say why he was brought back to work while an audit is underway.

Hester also declined to discuss the charges against him or his counter-charges against Blanchette.

“I got a lot of work to do. I got tons of permits to issue,” Hester said yesterday during a brief interview in the DPW offices at City Hall.

Nevertheless, a few minutes later, Hester hiked up to building’s third floor to press City Attorney Charles Boddy about his case, waiving off a receptionist’s protest that Boddy was unavailable.

Blanchette put Hester on leave on Oct. 5, after Breda Daou, the chairwoman of the city’s Board of Assessment, discovered he failed to report 349 building permits allowing $33.3 million in new development in 2010 and 2011. The failure cost the city just over $300,000 in uncollected taxes at a time when it was laying off police and firefighters, including about $100,000 that the city will have to write off.

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