METHUEN — The state Civil Service Commission has launched an investigation into the hiring and promotional practices at the Police Department.

Citing recently published reports, Commission Chairman Christopher Bowman wrote in a Dec. 2 letter to Mayor Neil Perry and police Chief Joseph Solomon that the commission is seeking "any and all" documents regarding "appointment and promotion of any police personnel in Methuen’s Police Department, including but not limited to, intermittent, reserve and/or full-time police officers, during the prior 10 years."

Bowman cited state law that allows the commission to “investigate all or part of the official and labor services, the work, duties and compensation of the persons employed in such services, the number of persons employed in such services and the titles, ratings and methods of promotion in such services."

The investigation comes amid a number of other, ongoing inquiries into the operations of the department, including a City Council probe, a management audit by a consultant and an ongoing review of the department by the state Inspector General's office.

Since 2017, the department has been under the microscope of the city leaders who say a Police Superior Officers' union contract, as well as the chief's five-year contract, offered exorbitant raises making them among the highest-paid police officials in the country.

The superior officers' contract is in arbitration with a ruling expected by the end of the year. Results of the audit are expected to be released by the mayor's office in the next week or two.

Police Chief Solomon said the Civil Service probe is misguided.

"No department head in Methuen per charter can hire, fire or promote an employee," he said Thursday. "Therefore the basis of the claim in the Globe story is false."

Mayor Perry said he was "not against" the Civil Service investigation, adding, "I've got nothing to hide. We'll see what happens."

City Council Chairman James McCarty said he hopes the city "fully complies with the request of the Civil Service Commission. The City Council has been unable to gain access to these records, which have been sought since January by the Public Safety Oversight Committee."

Councilor Mike Simard, chairman of that Public Safety committee, said the chief can no longer hide behind the statement that he has no say in who gets hired and promoted within the department.

"The fact that the chief continues to deny that he has a say in the hiring and promotional process speaks volumes about his integrity and character, or lack thereof," Simard said. "The people of Methuen know better and so do the no-longer 'silent majority' in the Methuen P.D."

Simard said he's been talking about the hiring and promotions problems in the Police Department since he joined the council in January of this year.

"This is part of the gross mismanagement I've been citing since day one," said Simard, who is a Lawrence police officer. "I think the promotional and hiring process is tainted."

Simard is spearheading a City Council charter-backed investigation of the department.

"I sure hope the Civil Service Commission gets the information and documentation we've been stonewalled on since day one," he added.

City Councilor Steve Saba, a vocal critic of the chief's management practices, agreed.

"We have been fighting wrongdoing in our city for the past three years," Saba said. "We've been begging for help from various agencies. This is welcome news."

On Wednesday, City Councilor D.J. Beauregard called out a number of investigatory agencies on Facebook, challenging them to come to Methuen and investigate the Police Department.

"The following agencies are spineless and gutless when it comes to addressing blatant corruption that occurs right under their noses," he wrote, and then provided a list which included the Essex County District Attorney’s Office, the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission, the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General.

"This city has been under siege for years and the message up to this point has been, 'We don’t want to get involved. You’re on your own.' It’s not just disappointing. It’s shameful."

Upon hearing the news that the Civil Service Commission was launching an investigation, Beauregard said: "I'm glad at least one state agency is stepping up to the plate. Kudos to the Civil Service Commission."

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