EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 5, 2013

Fired Salisbury officer gets nearly $74K in lost wages

SALISBURY — The town recently cut police officer Mark Thomas a check for $73,821 after reaching a settlement on lost wages, after an independent arbitrator ruled he was to be rehired following his firing in early 2012.

Thomas went back to work on Dec. 1, after being terminated by the town on Feb. 8, 2012, for being found “culpable” of two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. Thomas appealed the action, and in October arbitrator Richard Boulanger order the town to reinstate Thomas and that “he be made whole” for any lost wages.

According to Thomas’ attorney, Kenneth Anderson, negotiations were amicable, although the two sides had differing views on some financial estimates concerning how much Thomas lost following his roughly 10-month termination period. Anderson said the settlement was based on an agreed upon gross figure of just under $100,000. When income Thomas received during the separation was subtracted, the cash value equaled $73,821.56.

Thomas’ income included unemployment benefits he collected, as well as income he earned as an attorney during the months between his firing and rehiring, according to Town Manager Neil Harrington. The calculation on lost wages and benefits included not only Thomas’ base salary, but an estimate of overtime and detail work he might have earned if he’d been with the police department, as well as what Thomas paid toward his insurance benefits under COBRA.

Harrington said figuring out how much actual back salary was owed Thomas was the easy part; all that had to be done was to tabulate hours and rate of pay.

Differences between parties came over how much overtime and private detail work Thomas might have earned while he was separated from the department.

“We were a few thousand dollars apart on those estimates,” Harrington said. “We ended up negotiating that figure.”

Anderson said the settlement did not include any penalties or compensation for harm to his reputation, nor did the settlement include money to cover Thomas’ legal fees. He added that this financial settlement doesn’t have any language in it that could prevent Thomas from suing the town for damages, should he choose.

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