SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

June 8, 2013

Former union head says receipts he kept are missing from office

O'Leary testifies at appeal hearing

SALEM — The former president of the Salem Firefighters Union, who was fired last year for allegedly misappropriating more than $25,000 in union charitable funds, says he kept “hundreds and hundreds” of receipts for donations that appear to be missing from the union office.

In testimony yesterday before the Civil Service Commission in Boston, where he has appealed his firing, former Lt. John O’Leary also provided explanations for what a city hearing officer called questionable and unverified cash donations he made to sports groups, youth organizations, politicians, fire unions and others.

The hearing, which will continue Monday, is providing conflicting and starkly different portraits of O’Leary’s actions from 2002 to 2010, when he almost single-handedly oversaw a union account at Greater Salem Employees Federal Credit Union.

At the heart of the city’s case are a number of letters from organizations or individuals who say they never received donations that O’Leary says he made on behalf of Salem Firefighters Local 172.

For example, the city hearing officer’s report cites a $500 withdrawal by O’Leary for Lynn Firefighter Robert Mullins. When the Salem union contacted Mullins, he wrote back: “There is no fund of any kind for myself. I have never received anything from anyone, not one cent.”

O’Leary said he knows Mullins and also knows there wasn’t a fund specifically set up for the firefighter. He said he made the donation to the Lynn Firefighters Union to “disburse as they see necessary.” He said he marked the donation for Mullins for record-keeping purposes.

O’Leary said he even recalls driving to Lynn to hand the cash donation to someone at their union office on Fayette Street. When he found no one in the office, he said, he gave it to a firefighter at the station.

The former union official was asked about another unsubstantiated donation to the Stephen O’Grady Fund, a charity in memory of the former director of the Salem Boys & Girls Club.

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