By Todd Feathers | Lowell Sun
DRACUT — Town Manager Jim Duggan has scheduled a civil-service hearing Monday to determine whether Deputy Police Chief David Chartrand violated department policy and state law when he released documents regarding a Dracut police lieutenant to The Sun.
Chartrand received a letter notifying him of the hearing on Wednesday and through a lawyer expressed his expectation that the hearing would be a “farce and a sham” due to Duggan’s bias against him.
“For some time, it has been evident that Town Manager James Duggan has waged an illicit campaign designed to discredit and harm Deputy Chief Chartrand,” attorney Andrew Gambaccini said in a statement.
“The vendetta has now lasted for many months and Manager Duggan’s latest step, to advance baseless administrative charges against the Deputy, is the culmination of that endeavor.”
The hearing stems from two union grievances filed earlier this year by Lt. Michael Fleury, who claimed that Chartrand included an inappropriate disciplinary letter in his personnel file and then gave that letter to The Sun in response to a public-records request for internal-affairs investigation reports.
In his ruling on the grievances, Duggan wrote that the letter did not appear to meet the department’s own definition of an internal-affairs matter, and therefore, should not have been released.
The grievances asked for a further investigation into the matter.
“Based upon the grievance that was filed and my decisions … I have exercised that further inquiry and examination, thus Deputy Chief Chartrand has been presented with the charges,” Duggan said.
He declined to discuss the specific charges leveled against Chartrand.
“The accusation of a personal vendetta is baseless,” Duggan said. “I am only responding to grievances filed based on the actions and behavior of the deputy chief.”
Duggan has the right to serve as the hearing officer in civil-service investigations such as this, but said he has decided to appoint an outside person to oversee the hearing. He has not yet made a decision as to who that will be.
Should the hearing officer rule against him, Chartrand will have the option to appeal the decision to the state Civil Service Commission.
Even before the hearing has occurred, Gambaccini signaled that he expects to make such an appeal.
“There will be no fairness in any proceeding that involves a Manager who has proven himself to be as biased and corrupted in his decision-making as this Manager has with respect to Deputy Chartrand,” he wrote. “That said, because the Manager has not done a very good job of masking his political and personal motivations and because he now has staked out a position contrary to settled law, we very much look forward to an appropriate future hearing before the Civil Service Commission.”