EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 9, 2013

City rejects plea to reinstate cop accused of child rape

By Keith Eddings
keddings@eagletribune.com

---- — LAWRENCE — The city yesterday rejected a plea to reinstate a cop Mayor William Lantigua fired last month after the officer was accused of sexually assaulting children in Florida and New Hampshire.

In a four-sentence ruling, Personnel Director Frank Bonet denied the grievance filed by the Lawrence Patrolmen’s Association arguing that Officer Carlos Gonzalez should be reinstated to his $60,000-a-year job and then suspended without pay until the charges against him are heard.

Matthew Dwyer, the union’s lawyer, argued that suspending Gonzalez without pay was more appropriate than firing him because he has not been convicted of either allegation.

Gonzalez was charged in December with raping a girl under the age of 12 in Haines City, Fla., earlier that year. The charges caused New Hampshire law enforcement officials to reopen their investigation into allegations that Gonzalez sexually assaulted a girl under age 13 in Salem, N.H., in 1992 and 1993. He was indicted on those charges in June.

“These are crimes that would make any police officer blush,” Dwyer said before Bonet ruled yesterday. “He’s been indicted for serious crimes. We’re not happy about that. We hope he didn’t do those things. But we don’t know.”

Dwyer also argued that it is “disconcerting” that Lantigua fired Gonzalez while showing more leniency for Officer P.J. Lopez and Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla after they were indicted on corruption charges last year.

Lantigua suspended both men with pay. Bonilla — who managed Lantigua’s 2009 campaign — earns $140,000 annually. Lopez earns $60,000.

Dwyer also questioned why Lantigua allegedly ordered an investigation into the allegations against Gonzalez but “steer(ed) clear of any active investigation into the conduct of the other two officers.”

Lantigua did not return a phone call yesterday.

In his ruling, Bonet said the city “is within its rights in terminating Mr. Gonzalez.” He also questioned whether the union could appeal his ruling to an arbitrator.

Dwyer and union president Scott Andrews did not return phone calls yesterday seeking to determine if they would seek to appeal Bonet’s decision.

“My position is clear,” Andrews said earlier this week. “You’re innocent until proven guilty. That’s a constitutional right. That’s fundamental.”

Gonzalez, 48, is being held in a Florida jail on a $150,000 bond. He could not be reached.

Gonzalez was put on paid leave on Dec. 17, 2012. Lantigua fired him July 1 after Civil Service Hearing Officer Peter McQuillan ruled that Lantigua would be within his rights to fire Gonzalez.

McQuillan, a former Methuen City Solicitor, wrote that “just cause” exists for firing Gonzalez for conduct unbecoming of an officer because of the “serious criminal charges of moral turpitude (he’s facing) in Florida and New Hampshire involving two separate alleged victims who are minors.”