FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019
Media Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Statement of Amesbury Officials in Response to Charges against Firefighter
AMESBURY — Mayor Ken Gray, Fire Chief Kenneth E. Berkenbush and Police Chief William A. Scholtz have taken swift and decisive action after allegations of overtime abuse by members of the Amesbury Fire Department were brought forward earlier this year.
In May, Chief Berkenbush was informed of overtime abuses allegedly perpetrated by two fire lieutenants. They were accused of putting in for payment for shifts they did not work. Chief Berkenbush notified Mayor Gray and Chief Scholtz, and the Mayor ordered the Amesbury Police Department to begin a detailed investigation of the facts and circumstances. That investigation resulted today in the indictment of Scott Cloutier, as announced by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office.
Cloutier has been on administrative leave since May and will face disciplinary action up to and including termination pending the result of a hearing that will determine his employment status. A second firefighter was also placed on leave in May regarding the same type of alleged overtime abuse, and that investigation remains ongoing.
“The indictment today alleges that a city employee stole from Amesbury taxpayers by requesting and accepting pay for shifts he did not work. These actions have consequences, and it’s now up to the courts to determine how justice will be served,” Mayor Gray said. “However, I want to emphasize that these actions do not overshadow the work of the rest of the hard-working and brave members of the Amesbury Fire Department, who show up for work every day and take great risks to keep our community safe.”
A third employee was also placed on leave in May, but the investigation cleared him of criminal wrongdoing, and he has returned to work.
“The abuse of overtime represents a betrayal of trust and a theft of taxpayer money, and I am very disappointed in the alleged actions of two of the senior members of the fire department,” Chief Berkenbush said. “These incidents appear to be isolated, and the members of the Amesbury Fire Department have no tolerance for this activity.”
Amesbury Police Lieutenant Detective Kevin F. Donovan led the investigation, working with the Massachusetts State Police and the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. The Fire Department cooperated fully with the investigation.
This situation has led to changes in the supervision and keeping of overtime records, overtime policies and practices, and Mayor Gray and Chief Berkenbush are in the process of bringing in an independent consultant to conduct an administrative review of the facts and circumstances and to make further recommendations.