By Amaris Castillo
A veteran police lieutenant was suspended for five days without pay last month after an internal-affairs investigation concluded he abused compensatory time.
Police Chief Peter Bartlett last week confirmed the monthslong internal investigation into Lt. Michael Fleury, who was charged with conduct unbecoming an officer, neglect of duty, insubordination and criminal conduct.
An internal-affairs report obtained by The Valley Dispatch through a public-records request shows 15 incidents in which police said Fleury's stated reasons for staying on duty were not consistent with incident log or department scheduling records. Until recently, supervisors like Fleury had been allowed to access, input and update -- in a software program used by the Police Department to document all hours of employees' work -- information regarding their own scheduling and attendance.
Fleury, who has been with the Police Department for more than two decades, was placed on administrative leave with pay on Aug. 3. Once the investigation was concluded, the longtime lieutenant was moved back to active-duty status, where he remains, Bartlett said.
Town Manager James Duggan and Bartlett declined to discuss Fleury's transition back to active-duty status, both citing that it is a personnel matter.
"He was disciplined, and that's all I will say," Duggan said.
According to the internal investigation conducted by Deputy Police Chiefs David Chartrand and Stephen Chaput, Fleury would accrue compensatory time in small increments, up to three or four hours. At times, they said he would also work a full overtime shift and request to be credited with comp time and would then build up these smaller incremental hours in his available banked comp time. According to the report, Fleury would then use the comp time to take off full shifts of duty, primarily on weekends.
Fleury earns $106,000 annually. The suspension cost him slightly more than $2,000 in pay.
The case stemmed from March 27, 2018, when Fleury entered his hours of work as 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Because he stayed on duty beyond his scheduled shift, Fleury credited himself with one hour of compensatory time. According to the report, the software program used by the Police Department to document employee hours has a module whereby the submitting supervisor provides a reason explaining why he or she was required to stay later.
Fleury entered "paperwork" as his reason. The following day, Bartlett was reviewing entries into the system and instructed Chaput to contact Fleury for further clarification on what that paperwork consisted of. Fleury sent an email to Bartlett that same day, alleging that he remained on duty because he was awaiting the results of a call at a residence, and waiting both to possibly book a prisoner and/or update his shift summary.
After review, Bartlett concluded that Fleury had expected to be paid comp time for something he created as a reason to be compensated, according to the report.
Fleury's lawyer, Jeffrey Rosario Turco, called the internal-affairs report a "sham."
"Lt. Fleury is proud of his nearly 30 years of exemplary public-safety service, approximately 26 years of which were in the town of Dracut and he looks forward to thoroughly and completely clearing his name," Turco said. "He was preparing to retire, and this report and this investigation is a sham, and it was an attempt by a discredited deputy chief to take a shot at the lieutenant and damage his good name."
Turco specified that the deputy chief he was referring to is Chartrand, who the attorney said was suspended previously for releasing confidential records. Two years ago, Chartrand was suspended for two weeks without pay following a civil-service inquiry into his handling of documents in Fleury's personnel file.
Last month, Fleury was celebrated by seniors at the Dracut Council on Aging for his integral role in the planning of the monthly Veterans Breakfast. Messages wishing him well in his retirement covered a large poster board with a backdrop of American flags.
In a letter to Duggan dated Aug. 31, Turco wrote that the "purpose of the pending sham investigation is to deny Lt. Fleury the dignity of retiring with the honor and respect he deserves."
Chartrand last Tuesday referred questions to his attorney, Andrew Gambaccini, who, when reached, called Turco's statement about Chartrand "complete and utter nonsense."
"I'm sorry he feels that way," Duggan said in response to Turco's statement, "but it was an investigation that was completed with the input from both deputy chiefs. The investigation concluded as a result of where the evidence took them."
In his own response, Bartlett said, "This investigation was a comprehensive, thorough internal-affairs investigation conducted by two deputy chiefs of police who both sustained that the evidence was overwhelmingly against Lt. Fleury, and I concur with those findings."
Among the 15 questionable incidents listed in the internal-affairs report are:
n Fleury credited himself with one hour of comp time on Oct. 17, 2017, giving the reason as speaking with the state Department of Children and Families. According to the report, the log indicated one call that day that involved DCF contact, from investigating officer John Quinn at 10:50 a.m. Fleury logged his hours as 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Another lieutenant and sergeant were on duty at 4 p.m.
n Fleury listed 1.5 hours of comp time on Nov. 10, 2017, giving the reason as a late arrest. Fleury logged his hours as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Investigators said the log indicated an arrest at 3:28 p.m., for leaving the scene of an accident. That suspect was booked by a sergeant. The booking was completed by 4:45 p.m. On multiple occasions, Fleury cited his reason for remaining on duty a late arrest or the booking of a prisoner, according to investigators. A department directive states that anyone arrested in the last hour of a work shift would be booked by the incoming shift supervisor. Fleury acknowledged to investigators that he is aware of the directive.
"Even though Lt. Fleury confirmed he was aware of this rule, he would choose to ignore it, and remain on duty past his scheduled shift to book prisoners and accumulate comp time," investigators wrote in their report.
"I'm disappointed in the practice that was exercised by the lieutenant, but obviously the chief has put in checks and balances that will make sure that this won't happen again," Duggan said.
Bartlett said police supervisors no longer enter in their own work time. Instead, supervisors log in each other's time.
"The Dracut Police Department is committed to ensuring the public trust, and when it is determined that a member has betrayed that trust, it will be investigated fully, rooted out and dealt with accordingly," Bartlett said in a statement. "We are looking at this situation as an anomaly; however, we are in the process of reviewing all practices and records to ensure the system's integrity. This department is made up of dedicated, professional public servants, and this is in no way a reflection of those who come to work every day proudly to do their job."