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March 11, 2013

Deputy police chief's job stays again

LAWRENCE – Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla will stay on the city payroll after a proposal to eliminate his job – and the $138,000 salary he has been collecting from home since he was indicted on corruption charges in September - fizzled in the City Council last week.

A second proposal that would allow the city to stop paying employees who are indicted also has gone nowhere since October, when the council sent it to City Attorney Charles Boddy for review.

There are now four indicted city employees collecting paychecks from home - all cops. The last to get sent home with pay was Officer Carlos Gonzalez, who was put on leave from his $60,000-a-year job Dec. 17 after police in Florida said they were investigating allegations he sexually assaulted a minor. Gonzalez was formally charged on Feb. 27 and is voluntarily returning to Florida to face the charge.

On Thursday, a City Council committee voted 3-1 to table the proposal to cut the deputy chief’s job from the budget after a debate in which Council President Frank Moran suggested it was aimed at Bonilla personally. Moran questioned whether the council would be considering the proposal if Michael Driscoll still held the deputy’s job.

Driscoll held the job until William Lantigua became mayor in January 2010, when Lantigua demoted him to captain and promoted Bonilla from sergeant to the deputy’s job. Bonilla managed Lantigua’s 2009 mayoral campaign and remains one of his top political lieutenants.

City Councilor Marc Laplante, who is sponsoring the proposal to eliminate the deputy chief’s post, said it is intended to better allocate manpower in a department whose ranks have been decimated by layoffs and attrition. The department has 119 sworn officers, down from 146 three years ago and a peak of 161.

“Our numbers in the department are so low that it doesn’t require us to have a deputy police chief,” Laplante said. “We could use the savings from that to add to the rank and file.”

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