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June 22, 2013

Methuen solicitor hears case to fire Lawrence cop

(Continued)

Several exhibits were entered into evidence during the hearing, including a June 17 termination notice faxed to Gonzalez and memos from both Police Chief John Romero and McNamara.

McQuillan concluded the hearing by saying he would issue his decision as soon as possible.

It’s unclear why the city hired McQuillan to oversee the hearing. “I can’t comment on that publicly due to the (pending) hearing,” Boddy said. It’s also unclear how much McQuillan is being paid hourly for his services.

McQuillan’s departure in Methuen brought an end to an contentious five-plus months that began on Jan. 7 when the City Council voted against reappointing him to a new two-year term. During that span, councilors unsuccessfully tried to replace McQuillan and eventually hired the private firm Kopelman and Paige to assume the duties of solicitor.

Gonzalez was placed on paid administrative leave on Dec. 17 after the alleged victim went to Lawrence police and reported she was sexually assaulted. The city has continued paying Gonzalez, even though he was in jail and despite Romero’s requests to Lantigua to cut off Gonzalez’s salary.

Lantigua, as mayor, is the appointing authority and ultimately decides if a police officer will be fired.

Two other police officers with political ties to Lantigua are still being paid long after their indictments on felonies.

Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla, who earns $140,000 annually, was indicted by the Essex County Grand Jury as part of an ongoing investigation into Lantigua and his administration. Bonilla, Lantigua’s former campaign manager, is accused of swapping 13-owned vehicles for four Chevrolets with a Lantigua friend. The state inspector general said the city lost $30,000 in the deal.

Officer P.J. Lopez, another Lantigua supporter, was indicted by the federal grand jury for allegedly making arrangements with a local tow company to have cars he ticketed towed in exchange for a stream of benefits, including a $4,000 snow plow.

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