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September 5, 2013

Suspended cops sue Civil Service for backing city

Officers were punished for handling of ex-state trooper crash

HAVERHILL — Two city police officers suspended last year for their handling of a crash involving a retired state trooper are suing the state Civil Service Commission for upholding the city’s decision to punish them.

Last month, the commission rejected a second request by Lt. William Leeman and patrolman Christopher Pagliuca to have their suspensions reversed, after they were found to have given preferential treatment at an accident scene to Charles Noyes, a retired state police lieutenant colonel.

Noyes crashed his Cadillac Escalade in West Newbury on March 30, 2012, then kept driving with his air bags deployed until police found him in the travel lane just over the Haverhill line. The crash snapped a utility pole on Route 113 in West Newbury, cutting power to the surrounding area for almost 11 hours. Several police officers and medics at the scene testified they believed Noyes to be intoxicated, but Noyes was not charged with drunken driving and he was not arrested.

Leeman and Pagliuca were suspended without pay for 10 and five days, respectively, for violating police rules and ethical standards, as well as unsatisfactory performance.

Police Chief Alan DeNaro made the initial disciplinary recommendation, which was subsequently supported by an outside hearing officer and ultimately by Mayor James Fiorentini.

Leeman and Pagliuca are asking the court to overturn their suspensions, order the city to pay all their court and attorney costs, and restore all benefits and financial compensation the officers lost as a result of their suspensions.

The suit does not provide a specific basis for the appeal, other than alleging the commission’s decision to back the city’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, unsupported by substantial evidence and inconsistent with governing law.”

City Solicitor William Cox said the complaint, which also names the city of Haverhill, will be heard in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston.

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