Saturday, January 30, 2016

Slow Saturday Special: Exce$$ at Essex

"School district asks former leader of Essex Technical to return $89k" by Kathy McCabe Globe Staff  January 30, 2016

The former superintendent of the Essex Technical High School in Danvers has been accused of receiving nearly $89,000 in salary and benefits that he was not entitled to under his contract.

Daniel O’Connell, who retired in July, received the money for unused vacation, a stipend, and health insurance benefits, according to a letter sent to him in November by a Boston lawyer representing the school district. The district serves 17 communities from Peabody to Rockport.

O’Connell was paid $58,242 for unused vacation, $20,000 in a salary stipend, and $10,066 in health and dental benefits that he is now being asked to return, the letter stated. He also charged an undisclosed amount on the school district’s gas credit card for his personal use.

“We requested the money be returned to the district,” Melissa Teixeira, the School Committee chairwoman, said Thursday. “But we have not received anything.”

The committee voted on Jan. 21 to report its findings to the Essex district attorney, state Ethics Commission, and state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We want to determine if there has been any educator misconduct, and assess whether [O’Connell’s] license should be revoked,” Teixeira said.

A lawyer representing O’Connell said his client does not owe the school district any money. “We believe that any payments he received were all properly authorized,” said Gabriel O. Dumont Jr.

At issue is a dispute over the impact of an employment provision of the state law that created the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School District on July 1, 2014.

The district was formed by the merger of the former North Shore Technical High School in Middleton, the state-owned Essex Agricultural School in Danvers, and part of the vocational education program at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School.

The law states that employees of each of the three districts would retain their existing benefits after the merger was completed. O’Connell, as the superintendent of North Shore Technical, signed a 3½ year contract in 2010 that was amended at various points to include salary increases, stipends, and other benefits, Dumont said.

Dumont noted that once O’Connell became superintendent of the merged Essex Technical High School, his payments were approved each month by the School Committee.

“He’s frustrated and concerned about his good name,” Dumont said. “The suggestion that these payments were done in secret, or not known to the School Committee, is just not true.”

Teixeira acknowledged the payments were approved. “The School Committee has to assume some responsibility, because we sign off,” she said. “In the past, we have not taken enough to review” the district’s payroll.

A legal review and a payroll audit performed for the district showed that O’Connell was paid funds to which he was not entitled and that he “directed the Business Manager to pay these funds without the mandated documentation.”

Teixeira said she was first made aware of allegations of financial impropriety last spring and she brought her concerns to other members of the School Committee. In July, the board met in executive session with O’Connell, and he announced his intention to retire in a public session that followed.

The committee also hired a law firm to investigate “some financial allegations and potential ethics violations” against O’Connell, Teixeira said.

“We want to assure the taxpayers and those who are concerned about the School Committee operating in the proper manner” that allegations are being fully addressed, she said.

The legal investigation is ongoing and the audits have been expanded to include new areas, such as student activities and other accounts, Teixeira said.


Did you see the car sitting in his driveway?

"Police say suspect shot after carjacking Lexus" by Shelley Murphy and Steve Annear Globe Staff   January 29, 2016

LYNN — A man wanted for allegedly threatening his ex-girlfriend was fatally shot by police Friday after he tried to evade arrest by carjacking a passing motorist at gunpoint, according to authorities.

Randolph McClain, 33, was facing five charges for violating restraining orders and making threats when police attempted to arrest him at 8:30 a.m. Friday at a home at 106 Bay View Ave., Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said during an afternoon press conference.

Four officers were let into the home by a resident and called out for McClain, who responded that “he had a gun and would kill them,” Blodgett said.

McClain crawled out a second-floor window, pointed a gun at an officer from a porch, then jumped to the ground and led police on a foot chase through several backyards, according to Blodgett.

When McClain reached the intersection of Nichols and Western avenues, he ordered a woman out of her black Lexus at gunpoint and jumped into the driver’s seat, according to Blodgett.

“As officers approached the vehicle, he pointed his gun at them,” Blodgett said. “At that point, three officers fired their weapons at him.”

McClain was transported to North Shore Medical Center Salem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Blodgett said. He said authorities do not believe McClain fired his gun.

“As soon as the investigation and report is complete, it will be released to the public,” he said. “The officers are certainly shaken up,” said Blodgett.

Lynn police said the three officers involved in the shooting will be placed on administrative leave for three days.

A woman who identified herself as McClain’s sister-in-law briefly stopped by the shooting scene Friday afternoon and stood behind yellow crime scene tape that kept people away as a team of police combed the area for evidence. A gun was visible on the ground next to the Lexus, which had a shattered window.

“All I can say is I know that my brother-in-law was a good man,” Nefertiti Graham told reporters, adding, “and he had a good heart, and he loved his children, and he loved the mother of his children, and he loved all his brothers and sisters, and he loved his mother and father.”

Blodgett said McClain was the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Lynn Police Department’s Domestic Violence Unit because of multiple restraining order violations and threats. McClain allegedly threatened his ex-girlfriend and her family with a gun repeatedly over the last three weeks, he said.

That's not love.

Police had five warrants for McClain, who was homeless, and attempted to arrest him after tracking him to the Bay View Avenue address, Blodgett said. 

Is a good way to evade authority.

The dramatic confrontation on a busy street during morning rush hour frightened neighbors who heard the barrage of gunshots and saw McClain bleeding on the ground.

Ondina Deleon, who lives on Western Avenue, said she was in her second-floor apartment earlier in the morning when she heard someone outside yell, “Put the gun down! Put the gun down!”

Deleon said, “Then I heard shots.”

She said she looked outside and saw police running toward a car. A woman walking nearby with a toddler when the shooting happened was crouched on the ground, she said.

Maria Pena, an 18-year-old college student who also lives in the neighborhood, said she was in her kitchen when she heard the gunshots. She said she looked outside and saw the victim, who appeared to have fallen out of a car after being shot.

“I saw his body there and a gun on the ground,” Pena said.

She said the gun was beside the man, who was partially in the car and partially on the ground.

Luis Miro, pastor of Grace City Church in Lynn, stopped by the shooting scene after hearing about it and said he posted a video on the church’s website urging parishioners to pray for all involved.

“This is not a case about who is right and who is wrong right now,” Miro said. “At the end of the day, a life was lost.”

If nothing else, that thought puts everything into perspective.


Time for me to drive away from the blog for a bit. 

Five posts in one day is a bit excessive, doncha think?