LAWRENCE -- A private investigator was in City Hall on Friday meeting with members of the personnel department who had been placed on paid leave and escorted out of the building earlier in the week. 

Mayor Kendrys Vasquez won’t give specifics on the nature of the investigation. But Frank Bonet, personnel director, described Vasquez as “corrupt” and said he’s being retaliated against for reporting criminal activity involving city employees to various law enforcement agencies, including Attorney General Maura Healey’s office and the federal Department of Justice. 

Bonet has filed complaints about two City Hall department heads who are running a private business using city resources. Both are campaign supporters of Vasquez. 

Bonet also alleges Vasquez is using temporary hiring practices that circumvent union agreements while City Hall computer records are being manipulated and deleted. He said bidding practices for contractors are being ignored. 

Private investigator Michael L’Hereux, a previous 32-year police officer in Bedford, Massachusetts, had appointments with Bonet and other staffers in the personnel office Friday.  

Bonet wanted an Eagle-Tribune reporter to sit in and cover his 2 p.m. meeting Friday with L’Hereux. However, the private investigator would not allow the reporter into the meeting.

L’Hereux and Bonet then spoke briefly in the hallway about the part of the inquiry that involves the alleged leaking of criminal records from the personnel office. 

Bonet said he decided not to meet with L’Hereux on Friday because he did not have an attorney or a witness present that could accompany him to a closed door meeting. 

Lawrence police have not been notified about the investigation of the personnel department, said Police Chief Roy Vasque. 

City Council President Marc Laplante, when asked for comment on the investigation this week, issued the following statement: 

“There appears to be either ongoing or developing investigations. For many obvious reasons, it would be imprudent to comment on any allegation or investigation. However, I have urged the mayor to take the necessary action to continue operations in the Personnel Department. The City cannot afford to close this office for an extended period,” Laplante said.  

On Tuesday, Bonet and three staffers from the personnel department were walked out of City Hall by Finance Director Mark Ianello. 

An Army veteran, Bonet has been the city’s personnel director for the more than a decade. He also previously worked as the human resources manager for the Lawrence Public Schools for five years. He is currently running for an at-large City Council seat in the Sept. 21 preliminary election. 

Bonet also recently gave his notice and plans to leave his Lawrence position after accepting a new job with the city of Chelsea.

Vasquez is among five residents running for mayor. Formerly the City Council president, Vasquez became mayor after former Mayor Daniel Rivera left during his second term for a state job. In December 2020, Rivera accepted a position as president and chief executive officer at MassDevelopment. 

Public works director Franklin Miguel and Luis Santiago, information technology director, are among those Bonet has filed complaints about. Both Miguel and Santiago “are directors in the mayor’s campaign for re-election,” Bonet wrote in a June 7 complaint form to the state ethics commission. 

“Franklin Miguel is very close to Mayor Vasquez (like brothers) ... Luis is supporting the mayor in this upcoming elections and is set to receive a $25,000 increase” in this year’s city budget, Bonet wrote. 

In the complaint, Bonet said he was told by a city employee Miguel and Santiago may be doing personal and private work during city hours, using city equipment for private work and using city employees, subordinates, to do work for their private endeavors. 

Miguel and Santiago could not be reached for comment for this story. 

On June 22, Bonet asked the Department of Labor Relations in Boston to investigate issues with the temporary hiring practices that violated union agreements. In the letter, he said he feared losing his employment and was being retaliated against.  

Bonet, in a statement issued earlier this week, said he’s never served under a mayor “as corrupt” as Vasquez. Bonet’s salary for fiscal year 2022 is listed as $110,423. The three other workers are a secretary and two aides who earned a combined $138,028, according to the city budget.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.

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