METHUEN | Four top police officers who reaped overtime rewards from a federal Homeland Security grant are also the Methuen Police Department's biggest overtime earners in the last five years.

Money from the U.S. Department of Justice's COPS Homeland Security grant wasn't supposed to go to ranking officers in the department. But Capt. Kristopher McCarthy, Lt. Kevin Mahoney, Sgt. Michael Havey and Capt. Randy Haggar were paid thousands of dollars in overtime.

Now the Justice Department is demanding repayment of the $30,000 that it says was improperly spent.

An Eagle-Tribune analysis of police payroll records since fiscal year 2002 shows a pattern of five-figure overtime payments to the four superior officers.

In fact, more than 18 percent of the department's overtime money in the last five fiscal years went to McCarthy, Mahoney, Havey and Haggar.

Combined, the four officers earned more than $600,000 during that period. Last year, their combined total was just under $150,000.

The analysis looked at overtime pay from government sources, including city coffers and federal and state grants. It does not include private police detail pay.

None of the four returned messages seeking comment for this story.

Federal investigators last fall subpoenaed all records related to federal grant spending by Methuen police during the past five years, including payroll. The Justice Department won't say what it is investigating.

Overtime leader

In the last five years, McCarthy has made more in overtime than any other officer in the department by far. He earned more than $50,000 in overtime in the last fiscal year alone.

His base salary and other payments pushed his total earnings last year to $169,713. That was more than the salary of police Chief Joseph Solomon, who made $154,866.

During the five-year period, McCarthy, Mahoney, Havey and Haggar each brought in more than $120,000 in overtime pay and were consistently at the top of the police payroll.

It's not unusual for police officers to top the public employee pay list, thanks to overtime, detail pay, longevity pay and perks like the annual bonus paid for college degrees.

In Gloucester, for example, the top earner last year was police Lt. Jerris Cook. His base pay was $58,234, but overtime, detail and other forms of pay pushed his gross pay over $142,000.

Beverly's top wage earner was police Capt. John DiVincenzo, who made $148,772, including more than $46,000 in overtime and detail pay. Salem, Mass., police Capt. Paul Tucker led that city's pay list by earning $134,279, including $7,867 in overtime.

Total overtime

Methuen spent $906,298 on police overtime pay in the last fiscal year. About 17 percent of that came from state and federal grants. By comparison, Lawrence spent $1.9 million on police overtime in the same period. Just under 35 percent of that was paid by grants.

Overtime represented just under 12 percent of Methuen police payroll spending in fiscal 2006. In Lawrence, it represented just over 14 percent. Methuen has 104 officers, compared to Lawrence's 161.

Generally, senior officers make more overtime than newer officers. That's because their overtime rate increases as they climb the ranks and their salary increases.

Lt. Michael Wnek, head of the Methuen police supervisors union, which represents ranking officers, would not comment for this story.

Solomon and Deputy Chief Joseph Alaimo are not eligible to receive overtime. Solomon did make $35,176 in overtime during fiscal 2002, before he became chief.

Federal investigators raised questions about Methuen's COPS grant last month, sending Solomon a letter outlining concerns about how the money was spent.

McCarthy, Mahoney, Havey and Haggar collectively received more than $10,000 in COPS program overtime. The Justice Department gave the city $50,000 for the program, and Methuen paid nearly $17,000 in matching funds required by the grant.

Havey made more COPS money than any other officer. The $5,874 he made over two years represents nearly 9 percent of the $67,000 in COPS money.

In a letter to the Justice Department, Solomon defended the use of the grant to pay overtime to supervisory officers, who include captains, lieutenants and sergeants.

Now-defunct consulting agency Crest Associates was paid to secure and administer the COPS grant for Methuen. Crest came under federal investigation soon after.

Founder Richard St. Louis, a former Methuen resident, committed suicide in February 2004 and the company folded. Solomon in his letter said those events contributed to the confusion over grant spending rules.

Solomon did not return a call for comment on this story.

Mayor William Manzi plans to appeal the Justice Department's demand for repayment of $30,000.

But he has also taken the first steps to discipline Solomon, saying the chief was in charge when the money was misspent. A hearing that could lead to disciplinary action is scheduled for April 2.

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