SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 23, 2014

O'Leary appeals firing to court

SALEM — Former fire Lt. John O’Leary, who was fired by the city for the alleged misappropriation of funds from a union charity account, has appealed his termination to Superior Court.

O’Leary, 45, filed a court complaint this week that named the city and the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission as defendants. He is seeking reinstatement to the Fire Department and back pay.

The appeal comes a month after the Civil Service Commission upheld the city’s 2012 decision to fire O’Leary, an arson investigator who served as president of Salem Firefighters Local 172 from 2002 to 2010.

During that period, O’Leary oversaw a union charity account in a local credit union, often withdrawing cash or cashing bank checks to make contributions to causes ranging from youth sports organizations to fundraisers held by elected officials, according to testimony before the Civil Service Commission.

While the city concluded O’Leary had misappropriated more than $25,000, the state board found only five instances of alleged misappropriations totaling $2,100.

Commission Chairman Christopher Bowman, the hearing officer, said O’Leary had been “untruthful” about donations to the Stephen O’Grady Fund, Salem High Golf, a Lynn firefighter, the Salem Recreation Department and the Salem Cartoon Basketball League.

He said that those groups or individuals did not receive money O’Leary said was given to them and that O’Leary also used funds from the account to pay his personal travel expenses.

Bowman called the alleged conduct “egregious” and said O’Leary “irrevocably violated (public) trust, and there is no place for him in the Salem Fire Department.”

O’Leary strongly denied any wrongdoing, characterized the union probe as personally and politically motivated, and he offered evidence to refute some of the city’s charges.

He said records he kept were misplaced or lost by union officials after he left office.

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