METHUEN — The Public Service Commission recently dismissed an appeal filed earlier this year by police officer Christopher Gagné challenging the city’s decision to bypass him for a police appointment in January 2015.
According to the city, Gagné became a permanent full-time police officer on March 13 of this year. Two days later, he filed a circumvention appeal asking the Commission “to order relief in the form of a retroactive public service seniority date” dating back to 2015.
In his June 3 decision, Commission Chairman Christopher Bowman said Gagné passed the required civil service exam on January 16, 2013.
In February 2014, Gagné was listed on certification #01595 which would be used to screen new officers. However, it was bypassed in January 2015. A month later Gagné again passed the civil service exam. However, Bowman’s decision does not explain why Gagne took the exam again.
Bowman said that in 2017, Gagne applied to the Derry, NH and Merrimack, NH police departments; however, he was not selected by either. In September of that year, he applied to the Haverhill Police Department and withdrew from the hiring process.
After graduating from the Police Academy in 2018, Gagné met Methuen Mayor James Jajuga, who offered him a job as a non-civilian intermittent police officer.
In an unrelated case, the state Ethics Commission issued the following opinion: “Intermittent agents in Methuen are not ‘on duty’ at all times. When not on active duty, they have neither the authority nor the obligation to act as police officers.
That was not Gagne’s goal.
During the standard background investigation, Gagne indicated that he applied to Methuen Police in 2015. However, the “hired” and “rejected” boxes on the application were both left blank. Gagne later said he understood that although he was not hired, he was also unaware that he had been bypassed.
“Apart from this single reference, the 2018 background investigation makes no reference to the Appellant’s 2015 job application and subsequent rejection,” Bowman said.
Although he was an off-duty intermittent police officer for two years, Gagné maintained that he assumed the responsibilities of a full-time officer.
“I was advised by the chief at the time [Joseph] Solomon that I was one of the top candidates on the roster and was going to be a full-time officer,” Gagné said. “However, Mr. Mayor [Neil] Perry stopped this process after the full information, interview and hiring process.
On January 12, 2021, Gagné sent an email to the commission stating that he had met with Perry in September 2020 to discuss his situation.
“He informed me that according to Methuen police records, I received a letter informing me that I was bypassed. This letter was supposed to explain the circumvention and the reason for it,” Gagné said.
Although Perry provided a copy of the letter, Gagne said the reason for the bypass was not included. The explanation was also not included in Bowman’s decision.
“It wasn’t until I was hired as a full-time intermittent agent in 2018 that I noticed there were full-time agents working there who had scored lower than me at the time. police officer entrance exam,” Gagné said.
On April 12, 2022, the city filed a motion to dismiss the appeal. It has been argued that Gagné was actually made aware of the circumvention in 2015. However, he did not meet the Commission’s 60-day deadline to file an appeal.
By then, seven years had passed and Bowman agreed that Gagne’s appeal had been made far too late.
“The appellant’s first contact with the Commission was on January 12, 2021, well beyond the 60-day filing deadline,” Bowman said.
“The Appellant attempts to thread a needle and argues that while he was told in 2020 that he was bypassed in 2015, he was not provided with a copy of the reasons. The Appellant had ample the opportunity to inform the municipal authorities that he had not received the letter and the reasons attached. He chose not to do so.
Therefore, Bowman determined that a retroactive public service seniority date would not be granted.
However, he said the Commission’s investigation was not complete.
“The Civil Service Commission is conducting an ongoing investigation to consider, among other things, whether the employment of intermittent non-civilian police officers, including those who served full-time, constituted a breach of civil service and/ or other laws. ,” he said.