A police officer in Boston unlawfully created a fake police report as part of a scheme to help a friend’s brother avoid losing his job as a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) bus driver, the State Ethics Commission announced in a Public Education Letter published Wednesday.
According to the Commission, 25-year veteran of the Boston Police Department James Clark violated a Massachusetts conflict of interest law when he provided his best friend’s brother—referred to in the letter by the pseudonym John Smith—with a detailed criminal complaint falsely claiming that Smith had been arrested on July 4, 2016, for assault and battery. At the time, Smith was under a “Last Chance Agreement” with the MBTA under which he was subject to “immediate discharge” in he violated any of the department’s attendance policies.
After oversleeping and missing his shift asked on July 4, 2016, Smith asked Clark for some kind of proof to explain his absence, the Public Education Letter stated. Smith allegedly told Clark that he needed his help because Smith had stayed out all night and told his girlfriend that he had been arrested. The letter says Clark, after much prodding, agreed to falsify a paper complaint. The complaint used a fake address for the place where the offense allegedly occurred and named Smith’s ex-girlfriend as the alleged victim, the State Ethics Commission said.
The next week, Smith allegedly presented the phony criminal complaint to his supervisors at the MBTA to explain his absence. He was granted a short-lived abeyance of discipline, but a week later MBTA officials learned that no charges had been filed against Smith, according to the Public Education Letter.
Smith chose to resign instead of being terminated, admitting that he had actually overslept and telling officials that he had obtained the false complaint from Clark in the process, the letter continues.
Massachusetts conflict of interest law forbids municipal employees from using their public positions to secure privileges or benefits of value for themselves or others.
“The sole legitimate use of a criminal complaint application is to document and present to the court information regarding potential criminal activity. You, by contrast, used the Application to fabricate an alibi for a friend,” the letter aimed at Clark stated. “The unwarranted privilege you secured for Smith was of substantial value. The Application falsely reporting his arrest was in fact substantially valuable to Smith as he intended to use it to maintain his paid employment with the MBTA. Even if you were unaware of Smith’s true intent, and even if you believed, as you testified, that Smith was going to use the Application to deceive his girlfriend regarding his whereabouts and thereby avoid or solve a domestic problem, you had reason to know, given the urgency and persistence with which he requested it, that the Application was of substantial value to Smith.”
The Commission resolved the allegations against Clark with the issuance of Wednesday’s letter, determining that “public interest would be better served by publicly discussing the application of the conflict of interest law to Clark’s alleged actions.”
“The Commission expects that the letter will provide public employees in similar circumstances with a clearer understanding of how to comply with the law,” it added.
In an email to The Boston Herald, Clark’s attorney said that his client was “an outstanding police officer who is happy to put this matter behind him.”
A Boston Police Department internal investigation sustained accusations that Clark committed “conduct unbecoming” of an officer — but it failed to sustain accusations of “untruthfulness” and “conformance to laws,” a BPD spokesperson told The Boston Globe and the Herald.
The disciplinary process is reportedly ongoing.
[image via Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images]
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