METHUEN — Police Chief Joseph Solomon says the city owes him $200,000 — a combination of back pay and interest the chief claims is coming to him regardless of the outcome of his federal lawsuit against the city or related settlement negotiations.
“At this point, I expect the city to pay the money they owe me, pay the legal fees they owe, and we can negotiate a settlement after that,” said Solomon. “They’ve basically lost their bargaining chips. They put themselves in this position.”
Several rounds of settlement talks between Solomon and Mayor Stephen Zanni have failed to produce an agreement. If no deal is reached in the coming weeks, the sides will proceed Feb. 27 with a scheduling conference in federal court.
The chief filed his federal suit in May 2011, accusing former Mayor William Manzi and the city of “unconstitutional and retaliatory actions” for “illegally” firing him in May 2008. Solomon returned as chief in 2010, after the state Civil Service Commission reduced his punishment to a one-year suspension. The city’s appeal of the decision was rejected by a judge in July.
When he returned to work, the city paid Solomon $199,000 in back pay as part of the Civil Service decision. But Solomon said the city never paid him interest on that award, which he said began accruing in 2007 when the City Council — led by then-Chairman Zanni — slashed Solomon’s $158,295 salary by $25,610. Today, the chief says that interest payment has grown to roughly $99,000.
Solomon filed an initial lawsuit against the city shortly after his pay was cut. A three-day trial was held in Lawrence Superior Court in December 2011, and judges have since awarded the chief $60,479 in back pay.
Solomon said he has yet to receive any of that money. He said interest on that award now totals $7,200.
In March, Solomon said a judge also ordered the city to honor the chief’s old contract or hold a hearing to affirm his pay cut. No such hearing has been held. Solomon said the difference between his previous and current salary plus benefits is roughly $31,500.