In announcing the firing of a city public works employee recently jailed on a probation violation for failing a drug test, Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini noted that the employee could not work as he had lost his driver’s license and was incarcerated.
That, sadly, has been no barrier to paid employment with the city of Haverhill in the past.
It remains to be seen if city officials can make the firing of Jonathan Hernandez stick. Such disciplinary measures taken against public employees — not just in Haverhill — have a history of being overturned, leaving our communities stuck with employees who, in effect, are thumbing their noses at the rest of us.
Hernandez was arrested Dec. 6 and charged with possession to distribute a Class B substance (rock cocaine), possession of a Class B substance (Oxycodone), possession to distribute a Class A substance (morphine) and possession of a Class A substance (Suboxone). His arrest came after a police drug task force investigation into alleged drug sales at the Groveland Street apartment building where he was living.
The owner of the building said tenants had informed her that cars, including city vehicles, stopped there for short periods and people came and went at all hours of the day or night. Police generally consider such a pattern evidence of drug sales activity. Police also found scales and clear plastic bags that are “commonly-used for weighing and packaging illegal drugs for street sales” in Hernandez’s possession, according to their reports.
Two weeks ago, Hernandez, 23, pleaded guilty to drug possession charges. Prosecutors dropped the distribution charges. As part of the plea agreement, Hernandez received one year of probation. He was required to remain drug and alcohol free and submit to random drug screenings.
Hernandez was taken into custody Monday after testing positive for drug use. He will remain in jail until a probation hearing April 19.