EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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September 6, 2013

Chief of auxiliary police relieved of duty

Mayor Lantigua says decision was not his

(Continued)

Jackson is a main witness in pending criminal case against Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, former campaign manager for Mayor Lantigua.

“I had nothing to do with (Jackson) being relieved of his duties,” Mayor Lantigua told The Eagle-Tribune yesterday evening. “It was all based on the recommendation by Romero and Fitzpatrick.”

According to grand jury testimony, Jackson said Bonilla threatened to have him fired if he didn’t help Bonilla with an illegal swap of 13 city-owned cars for four Chevrolet Impalas.

Bonilla is facing extortion, fraud and conspiracy charges as a result of the car swap.

Testifying before the grand jury on April 25, 2012, Jackson said he feared losing his job; his only source of income and health insurance after he had a heart attack four years prior.

Under questioning by prosecutor Michael Patten, Jackson said he only helped with the car swap because he feared being fired.

Lantigua has allowed Bonilla to remain on paid administrative leave from the department while his criminal case is pending. Bonilla earns $140,000 annually and was indicted nearly a year ago on Sept. 11, 2012.

Bonilla’s defense attorney Alex Cain said he is “closely following the matter” involving Jackson. “At this point I’m going to decline comment,” Cain said yesterday.

Mayoral candidate Juan “Manny” Gonzalez said he was deeply concerned to hear of the allegations against Jackson, which he described as “added negativity to the city.”

“I understand that everything is allegations. But these are our leaders. The people our children look up to and they keep falling one by one ... It’s one thing after another. As a community, we need to do something about this,” Gonzalez said.

City Councilor members, including City Councilor at Large Daniel Rivera, who is council’s vice president and a mayoral candidate, and Marc Laplante, who represents District D, declined to commenting on Jackson’s case until they learn more about it.

City Council President Frank Moran also did not want to comment.

“I have dealt with him in the past and he is a good person,” said Moran. “He is very responsive when I’ve called him to get auxiliary police to an event.”

Jackson has been auxiliary chief for 26 out of the 40 years he has been with the auxiliary force.

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