LAWRENCE — A city attorney is taking over as personnel director at City Hall after the entire department was placed on paid leave and escorted out of the Common Street building.
The action came after Frank Bonet, outgoing personnel director, reported allegations of "corruption" and "retaliation" to a variety of state agencies, including law enforcement and the state's ethics board.
Bonet, a longtime City Hall employee and City Council candidate, is leaving Lawrence for a new job in Chelsea effective Sept 6.
Mayor Kendrys Vasquez on Friday announced that Gina LaGreca, an assistant city attorney, will be acting personnel director in Bonet's absence.
Also, the Collins Center at University of Massachusetts in Boston has been commissioned to look for a new personnel director and conduct a study of the department.
A private investigator was previously hired to meet and interview Bonet and the three employees of the personnel department.
It's unclear how much the private investigator and the commissioned study will cost the city and also when personnel employees will return to work.
Vasquez, in a statement released Friday morning, said LaGreca "will serve as acting director to ensure that the department continues to provide the services needed by staff and residents."
In addition to recruiting a new personnel director, the Collins Center will make recommendations for best practices and run an employee classification study and ordinance review, which has not been done in the personnel department in 15 years, according to the mayor's statement.
The study is "slated to begin as soon as the independent investigation concludes," according to the statement.
Vasquez has not given specifics of the independent investigation. But Bonet 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.
Last Friday, Aug. 27, 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.
Lawrence police have not been notified about the investigation, police Chief Roy Vasque said.
Bonet has filed complaints about two City Hall department heads who he purports are running a private business using city resources.
Bonet also alleges Vasquez is using temporary hiring practices that circumvent union agreements while City Hall computer records are being manipulated and deleted. He alleges that bidding practices for contractors are being ignored.
On Tuesday, Aug. 25, 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.
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.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.