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Waltham

On leave, chief got longevity bonus

Thomas LaCroix, seen attending a hearing last summer, is scheduled to begin trial in Concord District Court in June.

Pool Photo by Patrick Whittemore/Boston Herald/file

Thomas LaCroix, seen attending a hearing last summer, is scheduled to begin trial in Concord District Court in June.

Suspended Waltham Police Chief Thomas LaCroix collected $182,358 in salary and other benefits last year, including a $16,814 longevity bonus he received after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife, according to city payroll records.

LaCroix had been scheduled to go on trial last week in Concord District Court, but the proceeding was postponed until late June, according to the Middlesex district attorney’s office. He is facing charges that he assaulted his wife and a female neighbor in separate incidents in Maynard last summer.

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LaCroix, who has pleaded not guilty, was placed on paid administrative leave after his arrest in June, allowing him to continue to collect his $146,305 annual salary.

The $16,000 bonus for last year went to LaCroix in November, months after his suspension. LaCroix could get the bonus again this year if he remains on paid leave, or if he is acquitted and returns to his job, according to Acting Police Chief Keith MacPherson.

MacPherson said the longevity bonus goes to officers who have been on the police force for 10 or more years, and is based on a percentage of their base salary. He said the benefit is paid on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving each year.

Reached by phone last week, LaCroix declined to comment. He is under house arrest and required to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet.

His lawyer, Tom Drechsler, said LaCroix deserves to be paid because he is still an employee of the city, and is innocent until proven guilty.

‘Nobody wants to see the waste of public funds, but we also have to understand there’s such a thing as due process. This will be resolved ultimately.’

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Drechsler said LaCroix wants to have his case resolved as soon as possible.

“My client wanted this trial to go forward as scheduled, but the judge heard both sides and allowed the postponement,” said Drechsler, who noted that he had opposed the motion. “He sought to be tried back in February, and for various reasons, through no fault of his, it hasn’t happened. He shouldn’t be penalized and criticized for that.”

MaryBeth Long, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said the first postponement came because the prosecutor needed to deal with another case, and the second resulted from a scheduling conflict with a witness.

Last week, another member of the Waltham force was put on paid leave after being charged with a crime.

Officer Paul Manganelli, 46, a 20-year veteran of the Police Department, was arrested by the FBI on child pornography charges after he allegedly used his e-mail account to send and receive illicit images, such as photos and videos of prepubescent girls having sex.

Manganelli was released last week into the custody of his parents on $50,000 bond, with home confinement and a monitoring bracelet. He faces a number of restrictions, including staying away from minors and not using computers.

According to city payroll records, Manganelli made $95,452 last year. His base salary was $59,236, and was supplemented by a $5,868 longevity bonus. His pay also included $8,875 in overtime, and $10,650 for work details.

It was unclear last week whether he would face federal indictment, or how long he might be on paid leave.

LaCroix’s $182,358 total pay last year included vacation time, holiday overtime, and other benefits, according to city payroll records.

For this year, he had received $46,177 through March 20, according to city records released Friday.

Mayor Jeanette McCarthy said LaCroix has been paid while awaiting trial because he was not indicted by grant jury, but noted that residents have told her they find the situation to be “outrageous.”

The mayor said that the suspended chief could lose his job if he is found guilty on the criminal charges, as well as if the city finds that his conduct was in violation of Police Department rules. However, she said, no matter what the verdict is in the criminal case, the city must conduct an independent investigation in order to dismiss LaCroix from the force, and the investigation can be completed only after the trial.

She had asked the City Council last month for funds to begin the investigation immediately, in order to expedite the process, but the council voted against her proposals. The mayor said the city can start certain tasks for the investigation before the trial, and by denying the funds, the council is simply creating more time in which LaCroix can collect his pay if the decision is made to fire him.

“If we’re going to delay until after the trial’s done and then start the investigation, we’ve lost a whole lot of time,” McCarthy said. “I don’t see any reason to dilly-dally.”

Some councilors said they felt uncomfortable with the timing of the request, before LaCroix’s case is resolved, and would rather wait to see what happens in court.

However, City Councilor Thomas Stanley, who is also a state representative, said the mayor should have started the process even sooner.

“I think the city should have initiated this seven months ago,” he said. “The city should have acted and not waited, and I don’t think we should be waiting any longer.”

Some councilors say they have noticed an influx of calls from city taxpayers concerned about having to pay a hefty salary to a police chief who has been suspended from his job.

“I can understand the people are unhappy that public funds are being expended,” said the council’s president, Robert Waddick. “Certainly, nobody wants to see the waste of public funds, but we also have to understand there’s such a thing as due process. This will be resolved ultimately at some point.”

Councilor Joseph Vizard said the whole situation has led him to believe the city should take a second look at the powers of the police chief, and make the appointed lifetime position more accountable to city government.

“People have a right to be concerned that we have someone making such a high salary who has been on leave for so long,” Vizard said. “Anything we can do to alleviate that financial burden on them, we should be doing.”

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com.
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