Solomon's pension, payout amount remain open questions

File photoMethuen police Chief Joseph Solomon recently announced his retirement. His pension and contract payout amount remain open questions, according to city officials. The answer depends in part on the resolution of the 2017 superior officers' union contract dispute, which is currently in arbitration. 

METHUEN — At the age of 60, with 35 years of service in the city, police Chief Joseph Solomon is eligible for a pension of 80% of the average of five years of his highest salaries. The question now, is: What is Solomon's salary?

Last year, it was reported in The Eagle-Tribune that Solomon was earning $25,000 a month — or $300,000 a year.

A pension worth 80% of that would leave Solomon with a retirement worth $240,000 a year.

But Solomon has claimed in the past that his salary is actually higher than $300,000 a year. A 2018 story in The Eagle-Tribune reported that Solomon was on track to earn $370,000 a year.

According to his contract, which was approved in 2017, his salary is based on 2.6 times the highest-paid patrolman.

The superior officers' union contract was also approved in 2017, but was put into limbo in 2018 when the City Council refused to fund it. The contract would have seen captains earning well over $200,000 a year. The mayor at the time, James Jajuga, said the contract would have bankrupted the city.

Jajuga negotiated a so-called Memorandum of Understanding with the superior officers that would have given them smaller, but still significant, raises — much more than the council was willing to spend. The council de-funded the MOU, as it was called, and the issue ended up in arbitration.

According to City Councilor Mike Simard, arbitration hearings are being held this week.

Depending on how the arbitrator rules, Solomon's salary could go up or down, since it is linked to the superior officers' salaries. If the city were forced to fully fund Solomon's pay, the issue may end up in court.

City Councilor Mike Simard, while refusing to comment specifically on the pension issue, noted: "I'm sure the city will proceed cautiously and do what's best for the citizens."

Methuen Mayor Neil Perry refused to comment for this story.

Solomon's pension isn't the only point of contention between the city and Solomon.

The other issue is his payout amount. Typically when people retire from public service jobs they are given back pay for things like unused sick time and vacation time.

Because of Solomon's extensive travel over his 35 years on the job, he may also be entitled to a travel allowance of some sort.

City Councilor James McCarty said "the elephant in the room is how much money (Solomon) is owed upon retirement. There are discrepancies between the city and the chief. We do not have any of that information."

McCarty added that the council "has been seeking that information for about a year now and we were told not to worry about it because 'he is not retiring yet.' So, here we are now."

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