NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 2, 2012

Report: jealousy, weak accusations led to firing

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SALISBURY — An arbitrator found that the town failed to substantiate accusations lodged against fired officer Mark Thomas, and was “predisposed to firing him” based on his close ties with ex-chief David L’Esperance and “the jealousy of (Thomas) by other town police officers.”

Details of a 36-page decision, released this week, state that Salisbury officials failed to find evidence to back up a slew of allegations that led to Thomas’ firing earlier this year.

Among the findings by arbitrator Ricard Boulanger were:

On the charge of Thomas studying for the February, 2008 bar exam while on duty, Boulanger found that the evidence presented was not conclusive, nor that of his taking a cruiser to Boston to study.

“While (Thomas) had permission from Chief L’Esperance to study for the Bar Examination while on-duty either at the SPA (New England) office or in Boston, he testified that he did not do so,” Boulanger wrote in his decision. “The evidence establishes that no one witnessed (Thomas) studying for the Bar Examination while in duty.”

Boulanger goes on to say that although Salisbury Detective Steve Sforza found keys to the SPS New England office in Thomas’s desk at the station, it did not prove Thomas used the office. The keys were given to Thomas by L’Esperance for use as a quite place to study for the exam.

In addition, Boulanger said, there was no physical evidence on allegations made against Thomas by his fellow officers that he drove a Salisbury cruiser to Boston to study. Corroborating evidence such as travel logs, gas receipts, or even Fast Pass records, were not available to prove Thomas used the town property for his own private use, Boulanger wrote.

Neither did Boulanger accept as proof the evidence gathered by Sforza, which the town claimed indicated Thomas must have been studying on duty because his work productivity decreased during the time in question. Boulanger said the decrease in productivity could have resulted in the scores of days Thomas took off from work to study prior to the exam. Sforza was asked to undertake the analysis by retired Salem police chief Robert St. Pierre, whom Harrington hired to conduct the investigations into L’Esperance and Thomas.

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