LOWELL -- City Manager Bernie Lynch said Tuesday that he will appoint a hearing officer to hear the case of five city police officers facing termination or long suspensions in the wake of the death of Alyssa Brame in a Lowell police jail cell last year.
Gary Nolan, a labor attorney representing five superior officers facing discipline in the case, questioned Lynch's impartiality earlier this week and said the city was rushing hearings on the matter, leaving the officers with too little time to prepare their defense.
Nolan questioned Lynch's impartiality due to letters Lynch sent the officers which said Lynch had already found just cause to discipline them prior to the hearings.
Lynch said on Tuesday that instead of hearing the case himself, he will appoint a hearing officer to hear evidence from both sides. That hearing officer will then make recommendations to whomever is serving as city manager or acting city manager.
Lynch's resignation takes effect on March 10, so it is likely he will be gone before a hearing officer makes recommendations.
Lynch said appointing a hearing officer also enables the city to schedule the hearings at a later date.
"That's one of the reasons I did this," Lynch said. "Rather than trying to rush it through, if they need a little more time -- a reasonable amount of time -- they can get that."
Lt. Thomas Siopes and Sgt. James Fay are both facing termination in connection with allegations they committed several policy violations in their handling of Brame, 31, who died on Jan. 13, 2013, of alcohol poisoning after being left unconscious in a holding cell for 66 minutes, while no one checked on her.
The department has also begun to address a series of recommendations for changes in policy and training that were made by Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan at the conclusion of Ryan's investigation into the matter.
Ryan's investigation determined criminal charges were not warranted in connection with the case.
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