EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 3, 2013

Probe: Bonilla abused power


Lantigua regularly said Bonilla would be the next chief, but that hope likely evaporated Sept. 12, when Bonilla was indicted for fraud, extortion and conspiracy for allegedly arranging to swap 13 used police vehicles — including a Lexus and a Cadillac — for four used Impalas owned by a local car dealer connected to the mayor. Lantigua put Bonilla on paid leave from his $140,000-a-year job following the indictment.

Because Jackson manages the police department’s fleet of vehicles, he was at the center of that story as well. A transcript of the indictment shows Bonilla manhandling Jackson a second time while allegedly on a mission for Lantigua.

Jackson protested, saying the car swap would violate state procurement laws, according to his testimony before the grand jury that indicted Bonilla. Bonilla suggested Jackson would be fired if he didn’t approve the swap, Jackson told the grand jury.

Jackson responded by approving the deal. Then — as he did when he promoted the three auxiliary officers — he publicly praised the deal while privately condemning it.

Publicly, Jackson told The Eagle-Tribune that the four used Impalas the Police Department received in the swap “drove exceptionally well” and even gave the deal a name in a memo to a police department file obtained by the newspaper. He called it, “The swap of cars to benefit the city of Lawrence.”

Later, in what was then sealed testimony to the grand jury that indicted Bonilla, Jackson said he knew the deal was illegal but said he approved it because he feared he would be fired as the department’s facilities director and fleet manager if he did not. Jackson earned about $23,000 at the time. His hours have been increased and his salary is budgeted this year at $47,000.

Fear for his job also caused Jackson to send Bonilla the three badges that allowed him to promote Tejera, Santiago and Montas.

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