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Nashua police gift card probe ends up with IRS

New Hampshire Sunday News

September 29. 2013 9:40PM

Associate Attorney General Jane Young has referred to the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Attorney John Kacavas a letter about payments made with gift cards to Nashua’s Deputy Police Chief Scott Howe for cleaning a Police Relief Association building.

Young’s Sept. 10 letter to association Vice President Kevin Rourke said the state attorney general’s criminal bureau was closing its investigation of the non-profit group, finding no evidence any state law had been violated. The letter was copied to the federal authorities because of tax implications.

“Beginning in 2010, Scott Howe was paid with gift cards for his services,” Young wrote.

“While the reason for payments made in that fashion is not clear, to the extent there were tax consequences for those payments, a copy of this letter is being sent to the IRS and the U.S. Attorney for their review and action they deem appropriate,” Young wrote.

The Sunday News obtained the letter, along with two others, Friday in response to a right-to-know request. A separate request to the city of Nashua revealed Howe, who earned $120,000 last year, is entitled to about $71,415 in accrued vacation and sick time when he retires effective Tuesday after being on paid leave for three months.

The second letter was from Rourke to Young dated Aug. 29. It said members of the association’s executive board and board of directors conducted an internal audit and did not feel the association had been victimized by any criminal act.

“We did find however that there were several practices and policies that need changing and clarifying,” Rourke wrote, adding they were being corrected.

The text on the third letter was blacked out. Young said it was completely redacted because it involved a personnel matter, but wouldn’t identify the individual or individuals involved.

LeFoyer Hall

The criminal bureau reviewed “certain expenses” paid by the Nashua Police Relief Association from 2009 through 2012. Young wrote.

“In particular this office reviewed the payments made to Scott Howe and Scott Hammond for general maintenance work at LeFoyer Hall.”

Young went on to say it appeared the payments to Howe and Hammond were within the amounts authorized for maintenance — $50 per week for general upkeep and $35 for snow removal per snow storm.

“While the payments were sporadic and not substantiated with invoices, there is no evidence that the maintenance work was not performed,” Young wrote. Hammond did not respond to a request for comment.

The relief association, which is open to all dues-paying Nashua police officers regardless of rank, owns LeFoyer Hall on Kinsley Street. The building provides members with a place to relax, hold union meetings and dine while on duty, according to its website.Young’s office also reviewed the use of a debit card by the association’s former treasurer, Kevin Girouard, she said.

“Again, based on information provided by the board members there is no evidence that the use of the debit card was for unauthorized and/or inappropriate purchases,” Young wrote.

“At this juncture, the criminal bureau is closing this matter as there is no evidence of illegal conduct under state statutes in regard to payments for maintenance at LeFoyer Hall or the use of the debit card,” Young wrote.

$71,415 in severance

The inquiry was launched at the request of Police Chief John Seusing, who did not return a request for comment. Kacavas also did not return calls.

Young said the Charitable Trusts Unit was still reviewing the matter to determine whether it complied with all charitable trust laws.

Her letter was copied to Chief Seusing, U.S. Attorney Kacavas, Cathy Smith, IRS supervisory special agent, and Anne Edwards, director of the Charitable Trusts Unit,

Thomas Pappas, chairman of the Nashua Police Commission, said he was aware of Young’s letter, but could not comment because it involves personnel matters. The department has never publicly stated why Howe was placed on paid administrative leave.

“I certainly enjoyed working with Deputy Chief Howe. He made many positive contributions to the Nashua Police Department,” Pappas said.Pappas said Howe’s position will be filled; all captains are eligible to apply for the post.

Despite the attorney general investigations, Pappas said the department continues to provide safety services to Nashua citizens.

“I don’t think (the investigations) have interfered with the department providing law enforcement services to the city of Nashua,” Pappas said.

John L. Griffin, Nashua’s chief financial officer, also responded to a Sunday News request, providing the approximate amount of severance pay Howe will receive. Griffin said Howe has accrued 320 hours of vacation and 960 hours of sick time for a total severance payment of about $71,415. Howe earned $120,000 last year.

Howe’s final retirement payments will be based on the average of his three highest-paid years and the number of years of service, which hasn’t yet been finalized.

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