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Waltham Finance Committee to discuss using $20k for LaCroix internal investigation

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  February 4, 2013 03:10 PM

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The Finance Committee of the Waltham City Council will discuss tonight appropriating $20,000 to the police department for hiring an outside consultant to conduct an internal investigation about the behavior and actions of suspended Police Chief Thomas LaCroix prior to his June arrest.

LaCroix was arrested by Maynard police in June for allegedly assaulting his wife and a female neighbor during two separate incidents that month. He was placed on administrative leave with pay, which he is still receiving. His trial date is currently set for Feb. 13.

Waltham officials could not immediately provided information on how much LaCroix is being paid, but according to a Globe story he was making $138,808 in fiscal year 2009, which included educational incentives and other additions

Acting chief Keith MacPherson, who was unanimously reappointed to continue top law enforcement duties by City Council last month, requested the $20,000 from Waltham City Council through Mayor Jeannette McCarthy to hire an outsider instead of conducting the investigation internally because of a potential conflict of interest.

MacPherson said usually internal police investigations were conducted by supervising officers, but since the chief sat in the highest-ranking office, there could be a potential trickle-down effect that could benefit subordinate officers.

"For example, if a lieutenant is doing the investigation, and the chief leaves, then the captain might get promoted and then the lieutenant might get promoted to captain in a trickle-down effect," MacPherson said.

The investigation will specifically focus on LaCroix's behavior and actions during the days leading up to his arrest, MacPherson said.

"Sometimes when we do investigations, we don’t know what we're going to uncover," he said.

The investigation's findings will help McCarthy, who has the authority to appoint and fire the police chief, make a decision on LaCroix's employment with the city, MacPherson said.

"If he is found in violation of the department's rules and ordinances, the mayor can take action against him," MacPherson said, also noting that sometimes investigations can clear officers of any accusations or wrongdoings.

MacPherson said he highballed the request for $20,000 because he did not want to have to put the internal investigation on hold while he asked the council for more funds if needed.

The money that the mayor is requesting tonight would be transferred from the city's free cash account, said city clerk Russ Malone.

"It's an estimate that will more than cover it," MacPherson said, noting that the police department must give back any extra money to the town.

The Finance Committee meeting will take place tonight at Waltham City Hall, after the 8 p.m. council meeting, according to the committee's chair, city councilor Thomas Curtin.

"I'm sure there will be questions about the needs and the type of the investigation, who to bring in to do it, and why we’re doing it with this timing," Curtin said. "I’m interested in hearing what chief has to say, and we’ll take it from there."

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