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September 30, 2012

Editorial: Who cares if Lawrence cops are paid to do nothing? Not Gov. Patrick

It’s no secret that the property-poor city of Lawrence depends on the financial support of the rest of the state to survive.

Taxpayers who live elsewhere pay virtually all of its school budget and two-thirds of the rest.

Yet Mayor William Lantigua and a majority of the City Council are fine with spending other people’s money to pay three cops to stay at home and do nothing after they were criminally convicted or indicted.

And, hey, why not when the guy who is paid to keep tabs on your spending on behalf of the taxpayers says there’s nothing he can do about it?

Roll call, please:

Officer Daron Fraser, arrested in July 2010 and convicted in 2011 of domestic assault and battery. Not working but still drawing a check.

Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, Lantigua’s former campaign manager, indicted last month on charges of fraud and bribery in connection with a car-swapping deal with a Lantigua supporter. Not working but still drawing a check.

Patrolman P.J. Lopez, another friend of Lantigua, indicted last week on charges of taking a bribe and stonewalling federal investigators. Not working ... you know the rest .

Collectively, this trio makes about $270,000 a year -- $140,000 for Bonilla and $60,000-plus each for Fraser and Lopez.

Money for nothing — more than a quarter million dollars a year, plus accrued benefits, including sick and vacation time and accumulating pensions.

Police Chief John Romero has called on Lantigua to fire Fraser, who because of his conviction can no longer carry a gun and thus cannot function as a police officer.

Romero relieved Bonilla and Lopez of duty and asked the mayor to place them on unpaid leave, as state law allows when public employees are charged with crimes related to their jobs

Lantigua’s response was to name a supporter to hear the Fraser case. In a truly bizarre decision, the hearing officer said carrying a gun is not in the job description of a police officer so Fraser should be allowed back on the job. Fraser remains on paid leave while Lantigua considers his options.

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