LAWRENCE — A federal whistleblower lawsuit alleges Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque and a lieutenant of detectives lied about working overtime on drug investigations.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston further claims Lt. Mark Ciccarelli, who leads the department's detectives, falsified reimbursement slips from the city and took money from seized drug proceeds stored in a department safe.
Detective Kevin Schiavone, a 10-year veteran of the police department, initially filed the lawsuit against the city in March invoking protection under both state and federal "whistleblower" laws. Additional allegations against the city, Vasque and Ciccarelli were filed in U.S. District Court on Friday, according to court records.
Schiavone said in the lawsuit he was put on desk duty and watched after he complained about Ciccarelli leaving his loaded, duty handgun within a child's reach in the detective's division. He said a surveillance camera was installed in the police station to watch him.
Schiavone said he reported improper and illegal department activities to an agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, after which his relationships with Vasque and Ciccarelli "continued to deteriorate," according to the suit filed by Schiavone's attorney Seldon Nason of Hopkinton, New Hampshire.
Mayor Daniel Rivera refused to comment on the lawsuit, stressing he does not speak to any "ongoing litigation."
Speaking generally, Rivera said Vasque and the department's current command staff have had his support and confidence "since day one."
Vasque, who was named chief in January 2018, also refused to comment on pending litigation.
Schiavone's claims in the lawsuit include:
* That Ciccarelli gave him $300 in cash to purchase items and Chinese food for the detectives' Christmas party in December 2017. He said Ciccarelli later told him to ask for reimbursement from the city for the items. Schiavone said he felt "uneasy" about doing this and later found out Ciccarelli put a reimbursement slip and signed his name to it. Schiavone said he told Ciccarelli he thought what he did was wrong. He said Ciccarelli later submitted another slip for reimbursement and put Vasque's name on it.
* Money was missing from the detective's drug safe. An audit revealed "an IOU for slip for $300 that had been in the safe, signed by Lt. Ciccarelli," according to the lawsuit. "During this time and afterward, Detective Schiavone learned of other activities of questionable nature that Lt. Ciccarelli and Chief (then Captain) Vasque had been participating in," according to the lawsuit.
* While he was a captain involved in drug detectives, Vasque and Ciccarelli "would often begin drug investigations after 3 p.m. and 4 p.m....after their shifts were over." They would make a radio or phone call and start the investigation but never actually participate in it and then put in for overtime pay. The next day, the duo "would pull the detectives together into their office to 'get the slips together' and coordinate what times everyone puts on their slips." Vasque and Ciccarelli also told detectives to write in their reports that they "were on scene as well, when in reality, they were not on the scene or even on duty at the time," according to the suit.
* That he was retaliated against and re-assigned after he complained about Ciccarelli leaving his police duty bag, containing a loaded, department-issued handgun, within reach of a 12-year-old boy who was brought to the detective's bureau. Schiavone was later told to report for duty in the evidence room and denied access to the detective's bureau, according to the suit.
* During his new assignment, Schiavone said Sgt. Sandy Picard told him officers assigned to her are "problem employees for which she is required to document activities on." A mouse or rat was spotted in the office and Picard said "she already had enough rats in her office, an indication to Detective Schiavone that she had just called him a 'rat.'"
* A surveillance camera was installed in Schiavone's work area "directly behind his work station in the administrative trailer...The cameras are positioned so that all of Detective Schiavone's activities are able to be closely monitored when he is at work."
Schiavone said he complained about his treatment to the patrolmen's union but was told "no union support was forthcoming."
Schiavone said he was told by the union president, Detective Alan Andrews, that he was "lucky" he ended up with a "soft landing" in the department's evidence room, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and payment of legal fees, concludes Schiavone "is being treated unfairly and is being punished for his reporting of serious criminal activity by Lt. Ciccarelli and Chief Vasque. Chief Vasque and Lt. Ciccarelli and the city of Lawrence are denying Detective Schiavone's enjoyment of his employment and are discriminating against him due to his whistleblower status."
"It is demonstrably clear that the retaliation and hostile treatment toward Detective Schiavone and his reassignment to a clerical type, undesirable duty assignment has been a direct consequence of his reporting a matter of public concern – that being illegal and improper behavior," according to the lawsuit.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.