Former Methuen police chief, detective indicted on fraud charges

A 2020 report from Massachusetts' Office of the Inspector General found former Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon was being paid more than leaders of police departments in Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Chicago

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Nearly three years after his retirement following intense public scrutiny of his enormous salary, the former police chief of Methuen, Massachusetts, has been indicted on fraud charges.

The offices of Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell and Essex County District Attorney Paul Tucker announced charges Thursday against Joseph Solomon, the former chief of the Methuen Police Department, and former Detective Sean Fountain.



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Solomon faces two counts of perjury by written affidavit, seven counts of obtaining unwarranted privileges in violation of civil service laws, six civil service law violations, and charges of procurement fraud and uttering a forged document. Fountain is charged with forgery, uttering a forged document, perjury, procurement fraud and a conflict of interest law violation.

Both men will be arraigned at an unspecified future date at Essex County Superior Court, prosecutors said.

"There was a bit of shock when you saw the amount of indictments," Joel Faretra, vice chairman of the Methuen City Council, told NBC10 Boston Thursday night.

The charges follow the 2020 publication of a report from Massachusetts' Office of the Inspector General titled "Leadership Failures in Methuen Police Contracts," which found former Mayor Stephen Zanni had "agreed to unprecedented changes" to the contracts between the city, the Methuen Police Superior Officers' Association and the New England Police Benevolent Association, Local 17.

The new agreement changed the way base pay was calculated for Solomon and other high-ranking officers.

According to the report, Zanni agreed in 2017 to pay Solomon more than $375,000 in 2018. That salary eclipsed those of police commissioners and superintendents in New York, Boston and Chicago by more than $100,000, and it topped Los Angeles' police commissioner's pay by about $4,000.

Methuen Police Captain Gregory Gallant, president of the New England Police Benevolent Association chapter, drafted the contract, which used the "Gallant Formula" as a method to determine pay.

Following raises under the formula, the report "estimated that the salaries of captains, lieutenants and sergeants would rise to an average of $432,000, $269,000 and $160,000, respectively, not including overtime or paid details."

The year after Solomon's pay increased, the Methuen Police Department began laying off dozens of officers.

Solomon, who announced his plans to retire in January of 2021, defended himself and the department in an interview with NBC10 Boston the previous month.

"I'm not saying I'm not paid a lot of money," he said. "I put a lot of hours in. I work very hard."

Police Chief Joseph Solomon has been with the department some 35 years and makes roughly $300,000 a year. The City Council Chair has lodged some heavy allegations against him, but Solomon is standing his ground.

Campbell's office said Thursday that during his time as chief, Solomon hired six part-time intermittent officers to the police force, later appointing them to full-time positions.

Prosecutors say Fountain, one of those hires, falsely claimed when he applied that he had graduated from the Northeast Regional Police Institute, and that he forged a certificate attesting to his graduation.

"Solomon knew Fountain's certificate was forged yet acted as if it was a real document," the Attorney General's Office said in a press release.

Both men are also accused of falsely claiming Fountain was a civil service officer.

The case, which sent shockwaves through the Methuen community around the time of the Inspector General's report, drew swift reaction from city and police leaders Thursday.

"I think it should put trust back into your government, knowing that those days of Methuen's government working for the select few are over, that we are here to make sure that Methuen's government works for all 53,000 of its constituents — not just the select few who used to hold that power," Fartera said.

"Today's announcement of the indictment against former Police Chief Joseph Solomon and former City Council Chair Sean Fountain underscores that no one is above the law," Mayor Neil Perry said in a statement. "Methuen continues to expend every reasonable effort to steer the city away from the abuses and wrongdoing of the past, and likewise, the City looks forward to seeking justice against those who have harmed the City."

"One of my most pressing priorities since my first day as Police Chief has been our work to regain the trust of our community," added Methuen Police Chief Scott McNamara. "No one, including police chiefs, are above the law in this community and Commonwealth. I would like to thank the Office of Attorney General Andrea Campbell and Essex District Attorney Paul Tucker and their staffs for their diligent, professional work throughout this investigation."

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