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Paid to Sit and Wait

Trafficking cocaine is against the law. We hire police officers to find the dealers and judges to sentence them. We hire lawyers to defend them if they cannot afford one and we hire correctional institution staff to guard them and provide for their basic needs. Some are able to get rehabilitation therapy as well. To many taxpayers, it would seem like enough money already went into assisting these folks who chose to be on the wrong side of the law.

Now imagine that a person who receives a Municipal salary gets suspended from his job but continues to collect a paycheck while he awaits his trial and sentencing. That’s just what happened over in Peabody to a lineman from the Peabody Municipall Light Plant. Ronald D’Andrea was arrested in August 2011 with a half-kilogram of cocaine stuffed into a Target shopping bag. The local and state police had been monitoring his activities based on information that he was allegedly running a narcotics distribution enterprise. D’Andrea paid $20,000 for the cocaine and then was arrested when he picked up the goods. Police obtained a warrant and then searched D’Andrea’s house where they found $1500 in cash, a digital scale and a handheld grinder. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $5,000 bail. His case will take more than a year to settle.

In the meantime, D’Andrea has collected almost $40,000 in pay along with heath, life and retirement benefits. His manager stated that there was no specific policy about whether an employee should get paid or unpaid leave, so after consulting the plant’s attorney, they went with “paid.” The Light Commission was asked their opinion and they responded that, "We weren't asked at all to get involved; it is strictly a legal and administrative matter. If we were asked (to get involved), I'm not sure what the outcome would be. ... (But) we don't really get involved in day-to-day functions dealing with employees. That's what the manager is paid to do and why we have a lawyer."

Now, had D’Andrea actually been indicted, he would have to be suspended without pay according to Massachusetts law. But since he was charged with a felony but has not actually been indicted, there is no set procedure. The employee union chose not to get involved either, but had he been put on unpaid leave, they may have had to, and their investigation might have jeopardized that of the District Attorney.

We have got to find a way to speed up the process wherein the grand jury reviews the facts of the case and determines that there is probable cause and indicts the accused.


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