SALEM — The state Civil Service Commission upheld the firing of former Fire Department Lt. John O’Leary, who was terminated by the city for the alleged misappropriation of union charitable funds.
In a ruling announced yesterday, Civil Service Chairman Christopher Bowman said O’Leary “misappropriated funds meant for local charities,” an action he said “is egregious and warrants termination.”
In a 45-page ruling, Bowman wrote that O’Leary “irrevocably violated (public) trust, and there is no place for him in the Salem Fire Department.”
O’Leary, a 17-year veteran, was terminated in 2012.
There was no word on whether O’Leary will appeal. Attorney Joseph Dever, who represented the former arson investigator before the commission, said he is still reviewing the decision.
A former president of the Salem Firefighters Union, O’Leary was an executive board member who oversaw a charitable fund that the union established, in part, to improve its public image during a political fight with former Mayor Stanley Usovicz.
Over a decade, the union entered into four contracts with All Pro Productions, a fundraising company that staged softball games, comedy nights and other events for the union, according to the ruling. Telemarketers were hired to solicit funds by phone from Salem residents and businesses. From 2002 to 2010, approximately $344,000 was raised.
O’Leary withdrew funds from the account by direct cash withdrawals or bank checks, ostensibly to donate to local charities, youth organizations and other causes.
“The crux of this case,” Bowman wrote in his findings of fact, “centers around whether, at any time from 2002 to 2010, after receiving a cash withdrawal or cashing a bank check, Mr. O’Leary gave the money to the intended recipient or not; and/or whether he used some or all of those funds for his personal benefit.”
In making his ruling, Bowman strongly disagreed with city findings on the extent of the alleged misappropriations, which he concluded was considerably less than the $25,000 cited in a city report.