On a Saturday morning in July, in the midst of a crippling heat wave, Andrew Graham drove to the Raymond R. Rowe Jr. Memorial Soccer Field at the Dr. Christos Daoulas Education Complex.
Because he’s the supervisor of buildings and grounds for Dracut Public Schools, it’s not unusual for Graham to be out and about in his town-owned vehicle.
But what happened next shocked Brian Genest, a Dracut resident who happened to be walking on the track nearby with John MacDonald, also of Dracut.
“He walked onto the playing field and spent about 10 minutes shooting golf balls into the conservation lands,” Genest said of Graham. “Into the fields.”
An angry Genest filmed Graham and snapped photos. He emailed officials later that morning.
Just a few yards away from where Graham is hitting golf balls in the video is a sign nailed to the wooden fence that reads: “NO GOLFING ON PLAYING FIELDS, Per Order Supervisor of Buildings & Grounds.”
Meaning, per Graham’s order.
“As a town citizens (sic) who respects and follows the rules, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for town employees to do the same — especially the rules they make,” Genest wrote in the email to Town Manager Jim Duggan, which Genest shared with The Valley Dispatch.
In a photo Genest shared, Graham is seen on the field, knees slightly bent, ready to swing a golf club. Genest also shared videos of Graham hitting golf balls, a practice that Graham’s boss, Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone, said is “fraught with difficulty.”
Last week, Graham denied he was playing golf.
“I do not bring balls down to the fields or golf clubs and hit golf balls,” he said. “I much prefer to go to the driving range.”
Graham said he usually walks the fields on Saturdays and finds golf balls throughout the property.
“My men are constantly stopping and picking up balls, or they get stuck in the lawn mower,” he said. “Whenever I see balls out in the field, I hit them towards the fence to get them out of the playing field area.”
He said the video shown of him “might be deceiving.”
But in the videos, Graham is seen hitting the balls by the entrance of the field.
Graham said he wanted them out of the way — at the other end of the fields by the fence bordering the Beaver Brook property — so they could be picked up later by workers.
“He was grabbing individual golf clubs and whacking balls into the woods,” said MacDonald, who recently moved to Dracut from Lowell. “The balls appeared to be coming out of the back of his vehicle.”
MacDonald said Graham was clearly there for a bit of practice.
“I’m certainly not gonna call him a liar, but his story kind of conflicts with my eyes and the video,” he said.
Graham stressed that he didn’t bring golf balls to the fields and hit them.
“In the future, I’ll just pick them up rather than to do that,” Graham said.
Stone said he is aware of the email and did indicate that Graham’s actions appear problematic.
Stone said he has observed golf balls all over the complex, many times.
“It is an issue that he dealt with for years,” Stone said last week of Graham. “I’ve had a conversation about the methodology he was using on Saturday and how the image is potentially fraught with difficulty.”
Stone added that the maintenance department picks up golf balls from the fields on a weekly basis.
“Having the facilities director using a golf club to do that was a poor choice,” he said.
Asked if Graham would be disciplined, Stone would only say he is continuing to look into it.
“Any outcome will be an internal decision,” he said. “It’s a personnel matter.”
Last week, Genest questioned why there would be “two sets of rules in Dracut — one for officials, and one for everybody else.”
“The person who posted the sign … breaking the rules himself,” Genest said. “What would have happened if a town citizen was golfing and a patrolman saw him? Would they be warned? Would they be cited? Would they be fined? Why shouldn’t Mr. Graham have to follow his own rules?”
In an email Monday, School Committee Chairwoman Allison Volpe said Stone informed her of the situation and he’s handling it internally.
School Committee member Joe Wilkie said he is aware of the situation and that it’s a personnel matter being handled by Stone.
Wilkie added that he’d rather comment on the projects Graham has been deeply involved in.
Other members of the School Committee could not be immediately reached for comment.
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.