EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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February 3, 2013

Probe: Bonilla abused power

LAWRENCE — Auxiliary Police Chief Jay Jackson was ebullient after promoting three auxiliary police officers during a ceremony in Mayor William Lantigua’s City Hall office two years ago.

“I welcome these promotions wholeheartedly because I see them as the foundation and backbone of new recruits,” Jackson said after swearing in the three men, pinning new badges on their shirts and posing for photographs.

In fact, Melix Bonilla, the deputy chief of the city’s regular police force and Jackson’s superior, strong-armed the promotions of the three men — all of whom had been foot-soldiers in Lantigua’s 2009 mayoral campaign, which Bonilla managed — over Jackson’s vigorous protest, a recent internal affairs investigation into the promotions concluded.

The auxiliary chief objected that the promotions were not needed, that other officers were more deserving, and that the new positions were not even on the auxiliary’s organizational chart, the report said.

The report, obtained under the state’s Public Records Law, shows Bonilla riding roughshod over the auxiliary chief, angrily waving off his protests, ordering Jackson to leapfrog the three officers over others in line for promotions, creating hostility toward Jackson from other officers in the department who blamed him for the promotions, and finally threatening to fire him.

“Auxiliary Chief Jackson stated that the conversation was getting heated and Deputy Chief Bonilla was becoming belligerent,” the report said about a phone call Bonilla placed to Jackson. “Deputy Chief Bonilla indicated to Aux. Chief Jackson that his position as Auxiliary Chief would be in jeopardy if he did not do as he was told. During this conversation, Aux. Chief Jackson asked why he wanted the badges and Deputy Chief Bonilla stated, ‘Just get the badges’ and hung up.”

Alexander Cain, the Andover lawyer defending Bonilla following his indictment on unrelated corruption charges in September, said Bonilla never mistreated Jackson or threatened him with his job.

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