NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 1, 2012

Embattled officer back on payroll

Thomas to return to department on Tuesday

SALISBURY — Previously fired police officer Mark Thomas returns to the town payroll today, earning his base salary of more than $75,000 once again, according to a partially finalized rehiring agreement released yesterday.

The reinstatement letter came one month to the day after an independent arbitrator ruled town officials had no justification in firing Thomas and ordered that he get his job back and be repaid lost compensation for the roughly 10-month period of his termination.

Attorneys for both sides have spent the last 30 days negotiating the terms of Thomas’ reinstatement.

According to Town Manager Neil Harrington, although Thomas, 46, is considered a town employee as of today — the beginning of the work week in Salisbury — he won’t actually take up his duties until after a meeting with Police Chief Tom Fowler on Tuesday.

At that meeting, Harrington expects Fowler will work out what Thomas’ assignment will be within the department as well as determine the officer’s status on technicalities like police-related certifications. Fowler took over as police chief during Thomas’ termination, so the two have not worked together previously.

“Chief Fowler doesn’t know Mark,” Harrington said. “He’s going to talk to Mark and start with a clean slate.”

Town officials have chosen not to appeal independent arbitrator Richard Boulanger’s ruling ordering Thomas’ reinstatement.

Harrington said yesterday that although he is disappointed in the final ruling and feels the town was justified in its actions, he believes the decision not to appeal the ruling is the wisest course. He said the town’s attorney has advised that under the law, there are very narrow reasons to appeal an arbitrator’s decision.

“Looking at the decision, our attorney advised us we would have a very small likelihood of succeeding,” Harrington said.

Boulanger ruled on Oct. 30 that Harrington did not have just cause to fire Thomas, a 24-year veteran with the Police Department.

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