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Update: Officer Wojick cleared of all molestation charges

13 Jan

Frederick Wojick

By Eye on Peabody

Just wanted to update everyone on a story that broke back in November of 2012, and was reported here in this space.

Peabody police officer Fred Wojick has been cleared of charges of sexual molestation. Here are all of the details in the Peabody Patch.

Council expected to side with Mayor on removing Civil Service as criteria for picking police, fire chiefs

27 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt

The Peabody City Council’s Legal Affairs Committee did the right thing last night in voting to advance to a vote of the full City Council Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s request to remove the police and fire chief’s jobs from the jurisdiction of Civil Service.

Councilor At-Large Jim Liacos said it best last night when he argued that the Mayor should have the ability to “pick his own team” without being hamstrung by Civil Service scores. Removing the barrier allows Peabody to find the best candidate for filling those executive positions, starting with the selection of a new police chief when Chief Robert Champagne retires on June 1.

There is also the issue of a Mayor being able to fire a department head based on performance.  Right now, unless there is some malfeasance, that’s not allowed under the Civil Service system.

Although Civil Service test scores need to remain an effective way of avoiding political patronage when it comes to hiring rank-and-file firefighters and police officers, a Mayor should have the right to pick his/her own department heads and executive team, regardless of test scores. I wrote about this earlier in the Eye, if you’d like to read more.

“We all want the best candidate, the most qualified person, for this critically important position and I believe removing the chief position, for both police and fire, from Civil Service gives us the best chance of finding the right person,” Bettencourt said.

Just three members of the Legal Affairs Committee were present last night, with Councilors Liacos and Bob Driscoll supporting the Mayor’s request. Councilor At-Large Anne Manning-Martin wasn’t supportive of the Mayor’s request.

The matter will now go before the full council on Thursday, where it’s expected to pass. The vote would serve as a home rule petition that the state legislature would then have to approve and have signed by the Governor.

You can read the full story here in the Peabody Patch.

Please let me know where you stand by leaving a comment.

Mayor is right: Hiring of new Chiefs shouldn’t be determined only by test scores

12 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Mayor Ted Bettencourt

When a community searches for a new police or fire chief, the process shouldn’t be hamstrung by a test that has a primary intent of keeping politics out of hiring.  Civil Service tests are a good thing when it comes to keeping the hiring of police officers and firefighters “honest.”

But it’s just too limiting of a tool for evaluating and hiring public safety chief executives.

This is why I support Mayor Ted Bettencourt in his request that a Civil Service test score no longer be the determining factor when it comes to Peabody hiring for these two critically important positions. The Mayor is asking the City Council to vote to remove both the police and fire chief positions from the jurisdiction of Civil Service.

Not worrying about how a candidate scores on a Civil Service test will help broaden the pool of potential candidates for the new Police Chief when current Chief Robert Champagne retires on June 1.

“My research has shown that the best process for the city is to take the (chiefs’) positions out of Civil Service,” the Mayor told the Peabody Patch.

And he’s right. Who the right person is for the job needs to be based on several criteria,  and to eliminate people simply because they didn’t get a Top 3 score on a Civil Service exam would be to eliminate some of the best candidates for a position that is essential when it comes to public safety.

Bettencourt says that he wouldn’t totally eliminate the test as criteria, but other criteria would carry as much, if not more weight, than the Civil Service score.

The Mayor’s request is likely headed for the Council’s Legal Affairs Committee. But the Council should act quickly here,  and I feel the councilors should approve this request so Peabody is assured of the best possible replacement when Chief Champagne leaves.

Seeing the trees through the forrest, and catching up on other Peabody news

7 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Catching up on some things today while taking a break from writing about the state rep special election.

Capital punishement for Peabody trees?

Capital punishement for Peabody trees?

Turns out that Massachusetts’ ban on capital punishment doesn’t extend to trees.

Jennifer Pinkham Davis, Peabody’s Director of Parks and Recreation, recently told the City Council’s sub-committee on Legal Affairs that — under state law — any citizen can have trees on city property cut down at any time and at taxpayer expense.

Davis says that, if a citizen asks for a tree to be cut down, the city must go out, examine the tree and determine if it’s a danger to the public. In some cases, the roots of these trees make sidewalks impassable, and potentially dangerous. But it doesn’t stop there: Davis says that, if the city determines the tree is healthy and no danger to public safety, citizens can still petition and have it removed. And most times, the citizen wins.

But here’s the rub: Many times completely healthy trees that pose no danger to the public are cut down, and it can cost the taxpayers up to $8,000 per tree.  And … sometimes the resident’s reason for cutting down the tree can as frivolous as “the leaves are making a mess on my lawn.”

To stop this process, Davis is hoping the City Council can create an ordinance that would send that $8,000 bill to the person demanding the destruction of a healthy tree.

Stay tuned.

Peabody Police: Alert on a utility scam

ppdThe Eye is running the following alert from the Peabody Police:

This is a regeneration of an alert sent 02/21/2013 regarding National Grid. PMLP has received customer reports that they are now calling alleging to be from PMLP.

They tell the customer that their account is delinquent and to avoid power shut off they must pay now via credit card. They then use the credit card data to make fraudulent purchases. If you get a call from someone stating they are from PMLP collections, report it to PMLP and the Peabody Police Department. PMLP does not collect over the phone nor threaten shut off in this manner. If you can capture the originating phone call on caller ID please report the number.

Free parking for veterans coming to Peabody?

Postal worker Daniel Heafey has asked the City Council’s Legal Affairs Sub-Committee to pass an ordinance that would provide free parking for veterans in Peabody.

Heafey, a Cold War veteran (1974 to 1978), who blames some hearing loss and a bad knee to some tough work as a military police officer, said he was parking downtown recently and was troubled when he could only park for 15 minutes after putting a nickel in the meter.

“I put a nickel in the meter,” Heafey said. “I was gone for 15 minutes, and I got a ticket.”

No details yet on how the city would enforce this possible new ordinance.

 Tickets still available for St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast & Roast

Ttickets remain for the City of Peabody’s First Annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast and Roast,  which will take place on Saturday morning March 16th from 9:00 to 11:00AM in the Frank L. Wiggin Auditorium at Peabody City Hall.

“We have gotten a terrific response for this first St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast and Roast,” said Mayor Ted Bettencourt, “Judging by the demand for tickets, this event is destined to become a longstanding Peabody tradition.”

The public is welcome to attend the breakfast, which will feature Irish music by “McGeney and Moore” and good natured roasting of some of the city’s best known politicos. The cost is $30 per person and all proceeds benefit the Haven from Hunger. Tickets must be reserved in advance as there will be no tickets sold at the door to the event.

Those interested in attending the breakfast should contact Mary Bellavance at 978.538.5704.

City feels it is on solid ground in demand that billboard pole be moved behind building

7 Feb

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Cleaning out the notebook of the mind as we bask in the calm before the storm.  Anyone want to bet what time the blue flashing lights go on around Peabody today?

The pole will get moved on this giant billboard

The pole will get moved on this giant billboard

A source close to the situation tells The Eye that there isn’t likely to be a court fight over moving that 90-foot billboard pole back behind the sub shop, where it was intended to go in the first place.

The City,  I’m hearing,  feels that it is on solid ground when it comes to showing that the special permit specifically outlines that the pole for the billboard at the juncture of Lowell Street and Route 1 can’t be placed near the street and next to the building.

Last week,  Mayor Ted Bettencourt asked Peabody City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski to obtain a cease-and-desist court order against the billboard company, Total Outdoor Crop. Now, we are apparently close to placing this monstrosity out of view for those who live in the Ledgewood Condos and Rolling Hill in Ward 5.

Will be interesting to see now how quickly this gets done, but once again the Mayor should get some props for acting quickly to protect quality of life. …

We hear that Guy Glodis is available to perform!

Peabody’s First Annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast and Roast will take place on Saturday, March 16th from 9 a.m. to noon in the Frank L. Wiggin Auditorium at Peabody City Hall.

The public is welcome to attend the breakfast, which will feature Irish music by “McGeney and Moore” and good-natured roasting of some of the city’s best known politicos.  The cost is $30 per person and all proceeds benefit the Haven from Hunger.

Those interested in attending the breakfast should send a check made payable to the City of Peabody to:  St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, City Hall, 24 Lowell Street, Peabody, MA 01960.  Please include the number of guests in your party.  Please respond no later than March 6th.  For more information, call Mary at 978.538.5704.

Here’s hoping that no one goes with former State Auditor candidate Guy Glodis’ old material! …

Voter registration deadline for State Rep primary Feb. 13

New to Peabody or just turned 18? Well,  you have only until Feb. 13th to register if you want to be eligible to vote in the March 5th primaries for the State Rep special election.

The Republican primary ballot has Greg Bunn, who lives in Ward 5, taking on South Peabody nurse Leah Cole for the right to advance to the April 2 final election for the 12th Essex seat (Peabody Wards 1-4, Prec. 1 and 3 in Ward 5).

School committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne will also appear on the Democratic primary ballot, but is unopposed.  One Republican, Dunne and unenrolled candidate David Gravel will square off in the final election.

If you are not enrolled in any party, you can choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot.  Considering there is no primary challenge on the Democratic side, both Republican candidates will be out trying to woo those unenrolled voters to take their ballot. …

No laboring over the police contract

The city and the unions representing about 100 police officers have worked out a 3-year contract that will include a 2 percent annual raise over the life of the collective bargaining agreement.

The new deal also comes with an agreement from the union that it will share drug testing results with the city, and allow the city to promote officers by using what is called the assessment center system. The assessment center combines the results of a Civil Service test with exercises that are intended to show how candidates would react to certain situations.

The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2012 and will expire June 30, 2015. …

Now, break out the shovels!

Random incidents aside, Peabody is safe community when it comes to crime

4 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

ppdA shooting last night on Washington Street has sparked a debate in the comments section of an article in the Peabody Patch this morning, causing people to momentarily lose their minds and start comparing Peabody to Lynn and Chelsea when it comes to violent crime.

But please, can we take a deep breath right now and realize that actual crime statistics show that Peabody remains one of the safest cities in the state? Oh sure, things aren’t perfect here in our little berg. There is a drug problem for sure, and some infamous recent examples of how we definitely are  not Mayberry, NC.

As just one citizen, I would like to see Mayor Ted Bettencourt address the issue of drugs and crime when he makes his state of the city mid-term address on Monday night at Wiggin Auditorium. But crime, which is on the rise everywhere, isn’t rampant Peabody right now.

Don’t take that as my opinion. Look at the facts, actual crime statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  FBI crime statistics show that Peabody has a fairly low crime rate for a city of its size. In 2011, there were 2.4 violent crimes per 1,000 citizens.

In Beverly the number was 2.31, while it’s 2.25 per 1,000 in Danvers, and Salem was at 2.86.

Comparing Peabody to places such as Lynn and Chelsea when it comes to violent crime, as was done this morning in the Patch, is ridiculous and outrageous. In Lynn, according to the FBI data, there were 8.85 violent crimes per citizen in 2011 (more than three times Peabody’s crime rate), while in Chelsea it was a whopping 17.43.

By most indicators (actual statistics), Peabody is a fairly safe place to live when it comes to crime.  Is it perfect? Of course not, and it would definitely be good to see the mayor come up with a vision for cleaning up our drug problem, which definitely exists.

But come on,  people!  When you look at the real facts, we should be secure to know that we live in a fairly safe community.

Help support Peabody’s Fire and Police Memorial

21 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

When most people are running away from a dangerous situation, the brave men and women of our police and fire departments are running toward it.

I think of this adage in a huge way each September 11th, a day when hundreds of brave first responders made the ultimate sacrifice. And, we were reminded of it a week ago today when police and fire departments responded to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Peabody Fire and Police Memorial

A look at what the new Peabody Fire and Police Memorial might look like

Closer to home, and in just two days, we’ll memorialize the loss a year ago of one of Peabody’s finest, firefighter James Rice , who died as the result of injuries he sustained while fighting a blaze on Peabody’s Hancock Street.

Why am I bringing this all up today?

Well, it’s time for us to come together as a community and honor our own local heroes. It’s time to support the construction of the Peabody Fire and Police Memorial.

A joint effort between representatives from Peabody Fire and Police, and the Mayor’s office is underway to build a memorial that would look very similar to the photo posted here.

PFD Captain Dale Kimball is one of the organizers of the effort, which includes being able to raise $100,000 in private donations.  The city will donate land on Perkins Street.

What I’m asking all Eye readers to do today is click through to the website and consider making a donation to these efforts, or sponsoring a brick that will be placed around the memorial.

It’s a great way to saying thanks and show that you appreciate these people who keep you safe each and every day.

Update: Officer Wojick indicted by grand jury on indecent assault and battery charges

21 Dec

By Eye on Peabody

Frederick Wojick

Frederick Wojick

Just to update an earlier post here on the Eye, an Essex County  grand jury on Wednesday found enough evidence to indict Peabody Police officer Frederick Wojick on nine counts of indecent assault and battery, and two counts of disseminating obscene material to a minor.

Wojick, 48, is on suspension from the police force and is now living in Danvers. An arraignment date has yet to be set. He has previously been arraigned on these charges in Peabody District Court on Nov. 30th.

If convicted, Wojick could face up to 10 years in prison on each count.

To read more details about the case against officer Wojick, check out our earlier post.

Time to pay attention to Peabody’s new winter parking ordinance

15 Dec

police

By By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

With snow in the forecast for Sunday and later in the week, we bring this to you as a public service. Some of you may have seen these notices this morning from the Peabody Police Department  on car windsheilds. If you live in Ward 6, you also may have received a notice in the mail from City Councilor Barry Sinewitz.

As you may know, you no longer need to move your car off street and into and into a driveway during winter, which used to mean, even if it was 60 degrees out, you could get a ticket for non compliance. The City Council recently created a more sane ordinance, which mandates that you only need to get your vehicle off the street when there is a threat of stormy winter weather.

So how will you know when to take your car off the street? Well, first off, I think commonsense needs to prevail.

But just in case you’d rather relay on a more official source, parking bans will be made via Nixle alerts, Twitter, Peabody Police Facebook, on cable TV, Connect Ed (Peabody’s School System alert), AM Radio station 1640, and through those new blue flashing lights you see at intersections all over Peabody.

It’s a $50 fine now if you don’t move your car during a snow emergency, but I’m not sure I feel bad for anyone who now gets nabbed now.

So please use some commonsense when it comes to this new, commonsense ordinance.

Officer Wojick denies sexual molestation charges

30 Nov

By Eye on Peabody

wojick

Officer Fred Wojick faced child molestation charges this morning n Peabody District Court . Image from WBZ-Boston, Ch. 4

Peabody Police officer Fred Wojick claimed through his attorney at an arraignment this morning that the child sexual  molestation charges against him were “salacious” and “sensationalized” Attorney Tom Drechsler also said that the charges against his client were made out of an act of “revenge.”

Wojick, 48. was arraigned this morning in Peabody District Court on six counts of indecent assault and battery against a child under 14. The Essex County District Attorney’s office says that the alleged victim, who is Wojick’s step-daughter, is now 17.  She told investigators the molestation started when she was 11, and continued until she was at least 15.

The alleged victim says that the acts involved repeated instances of inappropriate touching, and sexual references made to her and her friends. Wojick’s attorney said the allegations are false and that the step-daughter was angry because Wojick disapproved of her boyfriend.

Meanwhile, according to a report in the Salem News, Prosecutor Kate MacDougall said it was Wojick himself who first drew the attention of police, after he contacted a colleague earlier this month and reported that his family life was falling apart.

The Salem News said he told his colleague that he’d “joked around” and sometimes slapped the girl’s backside, but denied anything more serious.

Investigators say that the girl told them the touching incidents occurred during several instances. including while she was being tucked into bed. She also reported other instances when Wojick allegedly sat her on his lap and showed her pornography, according to the Salem News.

A 10-year veteran of the Peabody Police Department, Wojick has been suspended from duty.  He was released by the court on  personal recognizance, but has been ordered to stay away from both the alleged victim and her mother, and cannot to leave the state.

More to come as this story develops.  Here’s the video from the  story on Channel 4.

Here’s how this story was reported Channel 5

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