US Representative John F. Tierney on Wednesday sent voters a campaign mailer showing him posing with a Salem firefighter who was fired two years ago for allegedly misappropriating funds meant for local charities.
Former Salem Fire lieutenant John O’Leary, a 16-year veteran of the fire department and a former president of the local firefighters union, lost his job after a city investigation found he had misappropriated more than $25,000, the Salem News reported at the time.
In a photo on the back of the campaign mailer, he and his three sons smile in front of a firetruck with Tierney.
The Tierney campaign acknowledged the lapse but said the photo was taken in 2010 before the allegations against O’Leary, who went unrecognized by campaign staff in the small image used.
“However, we regret that the photo was included and certainly do not condone his actions,” Tierney spokeswoman Lauren Soltani said in a statement.
The campaign mailer, which landed in mailboxes in the Sixth Congressional District on Wednesday, was intended to highlight Tierney’s endorsement by US Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is quoted as saying “John Tierney is a real fighter for the middle class.”
But it could have unintended political consequences for Tierney, a Salem Democrat who has struggled to shake off concerns about his own financial affairs. Three years ago, his wife, Patrice Tierney, was sentenced to prison for aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns for her brother, a federal fugitive who had been indicted on charges of illegal gambling and money laundering.
O’Leary’s case has been repeatedly publicized as he tries to get his job back. His firing was upheld by the Civil Service Commission in a stern 2013 ruling that, while dismissing many of the claims made by the city, called his behavior “egregious” and concluded he had misappropriated funds and violated public trust.
O’Leary has appealed the Civil Service determination, however, and is still trying to prove there was no persuasive evidence that he committed wrongdoing, said his attorney, Joseph P. Dever.
O’Leary could not be reached for comment.