The head of the union that won a decision from the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations last week said Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan broke state law while serving on an arbitration panel in 2019, refuting statements from Flanagan and Andover Select Board Chair Alex Vispoli asserting Flanagan was “not at fault for any wrongdoing.”

“When looking at Mr. Vispoli’s statement it appears that in his mind if you reiterate something it makes it more true,” said Frank Goode, president of the Chelmsford Superior Officers Association NEPBA Local 20. “I assure you, that is not the case.”

In a telephone interview Tuesday and in an email later that day, Goode said Flanagan’s actions forced the eight Chelmsford police sergeants his union represents to wait more than three years for payments under an agreement that had been arbitrated and should have been approved in February 2019.

Portions of Goode’s email and an email Flanagan sent Wednesday are quoted at relevant points in this article, and the full, unedited text of the messages are published at the bottom. Andover News also requested comment from Vispoli in an email sent at 5:49 p.m. Tuesday and asking him to reply by the end of the day on Wednesday.

Vispoli had not responded by 5:10 p.m. on Wednesday, when this article was published. Andover News will update this article if he does.

Flanagan reiterated a statement he made last week, saying he believed he was following normal procedures when he worked on the case. He also noted in a report to the Chelmsford Select Board, Chelmsford Special Town Counsel Brian Harrington said “it is not uncommon for JLMC panel members to share draft decisions and that my action in this matter, ‘happens more often than not, and it did not affect the outcome of the award’.”

“I have fully cooperated with every individual and public agency that has been involved with investigating or bringing this matter to resolution,” Flanagan said. “None of these investigations have found cause for disciplinary action.”

On Monday, the Chelmsford Select Board said it would not appeal last week’s decision and scheduled a special town meeting for Oct. 3 to approve the contract. The union has been working without a contract since 2016. Goode said what would have cost the town $108,000 had it been approved in 2019 but will now cost Chelmsford taxpayers more than $250,000 in additional legal fees, as well as the cost of calling and holding a special town meeting.

“It appears that Mr. Flanagan violated the law.”

Last week’s decision said Flanagan played a central role in a labor dispute where the town of Chelmsford “acted in bad faith” during contract arbitration with the union representing its police officers and “mislead” Chelmsford town meeting before it voted to reject the 2019 arbitration decision. The ruling said Flanagan, in his role as a volunteer member of a three-member Joint Labor Management Committee appointed by DLR, participated in ex-parte  communications by giving town officials updates on the panel’s deliberations, sharing drafts marked confidential and signing a dissenting opinion that had been written by Chelmsford town counsel. That dissenting opinion was distributed at the Chelmsford special town meeting, where the arbitrated contract was rejected.

“I was in no way involved with Chelmsford’s Town Meeting or the preparation leading up to it. Any statement to the contrary is categorically false,” Flanagan said Wednesday.

“Didn’t Mr. Flanagan agree to put his name on the illegally written dissent to hide who the true author was? Looks like participation to me,” Goode said. “Why the email to Mr. Flanagan from [Chelmsford] Town Manager Paul Cohen immediately following the funding article defeat at Town Meeting? Why the text message to [former Chelmsford Town Counsel Marc] Terry saying ‘I suppose that went well’ referring to the town meeting vote?”

Goode also highlighted testimony from the hearing that preceded last week’s decision in which Flanagan testified he deleted text messages that had been subpoenaed by the hearing officer from his phone, which is provided by the town of Andover. He also shared transcripts showing “all of his email communications in this case were done on Andover town servers.” and “much of these communications were done during regular business hours, not on his personal time.”

“It appears that Mr. Flanagan violated the law by destroying public records,” Goode said of Flanagan’s testimony the text messages were deleted.

Flanagan did not address the deleted text message specifically in his email Wednesday.

“My actions were consistent with what I understood to be common practice based on the limited information that I received prior to the start of my service as a management representative and from experiences shared with me by individuals who participated in the JLMC process in the past,” he said.

This is “an Andover issue.”

On Monday, two residents raised the issue at the regular Andover Select Board meeting. Vispoli read a prepared statement, echoing Flanagan’s denial of wrongdoing. At the meeting Monday, Vispoli said the statement was from the full select board but, on Tuesday morning, clarified in an email he had misspoke, and the statement was from him as an individual member of the board.

“The DLR decision does not find the town of Andover or its town manager was at fault for any wrongdoing,” Vispoli said. “The Andover town manager was not found to have broken any law or rules of the joint labor management committee.”

But Goode noted the hearing leading to last week’s decision was based on an action to determine if the town of Chelmsford broke any laws or rules, and not meant to determine if Flanagan had done anything wrong.

“Mr. Vispoli indicated that this matter does not involve Andover. I believe Mr. Vispoli and the Andover Select Board’s opinion is, at best, short-sighted,” Goode said. “Mr. Flanagan was working in a Volunteer role for the JLMC because he is a Town Manager…I dispute Mr. Vispoli’s and the Select Board’s opinion that this is not an Andover issue.”

In the statement he sent to Andover News last week, Flanagan characterized his role “as a management representative” and said his actions were “consistent with common…practice.” But the decision notes Flanagan’s role was to make “every effort to encourage the parties to engage in good faith negotiations to reach settlement through negotiations or mediation.”

“The JLMC only works when there are management and labor representatives who are willing to volunteer their time to assist in resolving labor disputes. This volunteer work can require an extraordinary amount of time and often one side or the other is not pleased with the outcome,” Flanagan said Wednesday.

Goode said typically, once a dispute reaches arbitration, rules barring ex-parte communication take effect. The chair of the panel in the Chelmsford case testified she had marked the documents Flanagan shared “confidential” and assumed the other two members knew their deliberations were to be kept private. Goode said he had no contact with Alan Andrews, a Lawrence Police union official who was the labor committee member on the panel, throughout the entire JLMC proceedings.

Before the Chelmsford case, Flanagan had volunteered on two similar boards. He testified he dd not participate in ex-parte communication in those cases, which were also Chelmsford labor disputes.

“Andrew Flanagan continues to want people to believe that there are no rules at JLMC and what he did was common practice and is how business is conducted at the JLMC,” Goode said. “Mr. Vispoli stated that Flanagan served in a capacity and followed established JLMC practices.”

Goode likened the situation to one where a police officer gets caught lying under oath and is added to what is known as a Brady list. Those lists are maintained by district attorneys and police departments and include the names of officers who have histories of lying, criminal convictions, or candor issues that would be challenged by defense attorneys if they testified in criminal cases.

“When your name gets on that list, your career is over. You’re basically a meter maid,” Goode said. “That’s what happens when we lie. But when it’s a town manager? No big deal, you get to keep your job.”

Watch Frank Goode discuss Chelmsford Superior Officers Association NEPBA Local 20’s complaint in April 2022

Full text of Andrew Flanagan’s email to Andover News

Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan sent the following email to Andover News Wednesday after being asked for comment on the issues raised by Frank Goode. The only edit was to remove Flanagan’s cellphone number:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Frank Goode’s remarks to you.  

The JLMC only works when there are management and labor representatives who are willing to volunteer their time to assist in resolving labor disputes. This volunteer work can require an extraordinary amount of time and often one side or the other is not pleased with the outcome.

My actions were consistent with what I understood to be common practice based on the limited information that I received prior to the start of my service as a management representative and from experiences shared with me by individuals who participated in the JLMC process in the past. Attorney Brian Harrington, Special Counsel to the Town of Chelmsford and former JLMC employee, in his report to the Chelmsford Select Board stated that it is not uncommon for JLMC panel members to share draft decisions and that my action in this matter, “happens more often than not, and it did not affect the outcome of the award.” 

I was in no way involved with Chelmsford’s Town Meeting or the preparation leading up to it. Any statement to the contrary is categorically false. 

I have fully cooperated with every individual and public agency that has been involved with investigating or bringing this matter to resolution. None of these investigations have found cause for disciplinary action.

Please feel free to call me on my cell at (xxx) xxx-xxxx if you have any questions. 

Thank you, 

Andrew

Full text of Frank Goode’s email to Andover News

Frank Goode, president of the Chelmsford Superior Officers Association NEPBA Local 20, sent the following email to Andover News Tuesday to summarize and rearticulate thoughts he shared in a telephone interview earlier that day:

Dave,

Here are some thoughts and comments.

–Andrew Flanagan wants people to believe that he did not violate any laws:

Although it is true that the complaints were lodged against the Town of Chelmsford it does not diminish the fact that Mr. Flanagan broke the law. The DLR only has jurisdiction to address and rule on complaints against either an Employer or an Employee. The hearing officer clearly found that Mr. Flanagan participated in unlawful ex-parte communications. In fact, Mr. Flanagan initiated said ex-parte  communications. 

Ex-parte communications is a two party exercise. 

The hearing officer also ruled that it was unlawful for the town to write the dissenting opinion to the award. Mr Flanagan accepted this illegal document, put his name on it and submitted it as his work to a State Agency to be included in a State ordered arbitration.

The hearing officer stated (page 28) The JLMC and the neutral arbitrator’s failure to explicitly inform the parties (both management and labor committee members) that ex-parte communications are prohibited does not render the conduct lawful. (remember ALL of the Neutral’s communications were marked confidential)

–Andrew Flanagan continues to want people to believe that his role on that panel was to be an advocate for management. This is not true. The hearing officer ruled that the Committee members role during an arbitration is not to advocate for a party’s interest, but rather to advocate for a dispute resolution (page 27).

— Andrew Flanagan stated that the hearing officer in her decision stated that the panel representatives were free to speak with their respective sides. 

That was not said!  They are free to speak with their respective sides only up to and through mediation and a 3A hearing at JLMC. Once it goes to arbitration rules surrounding ex-parte communication apply. 

Mr Flanagan testified under oath that Neutral Wolfson suggested the parties could speak. Conversely, Neutral Wolfson testified under oath that she did not give Flanagan that instruction. The hearing officer gave credit to Wolfson’s testimony and found Wolfson’s testimony more persuasive.(footnotes page 10). Wolfson testified that she expected the deliberations between panel members to be kept confidential. She also testified that all of her emails were marked “confidential”.

–Andrew Flanagan stated that at no point did he participate in any plan or take action to influence Chelmsford’s Town meeting.

I disagree and so did the hearing officer. Didn’t Mr. Flanagan agree to put his name on the illegally written dissent to hide who the true author was?  Looks like participation to me. Why the email to Mr. Flanagan from Town Manager Paul Cohen immediately following the funding article defeat at Town Meeting?  Why the text message to Attorney Terry saying “I suppose that went well” referring to the town meeting vote?

–Andrew Flanagan continues to want people to believe that there are no rules at JLMC and what he did was common practice and is how business is conducted at the JLMC. Mr. Vispoli stated that Flanagan served in a capacity and followed established JLMC practices.

That is certainly interesting. What is Mr. Flanagan’s basis of knowledge?

Mr. Flanagan has only participated in three arbitration hearings as a management panel committee member/arbitrator. All three of these were Chelmsford cases and the Sergeants arbitration was the last of the three. The second arbitration involved the Chelmsford patrolman which resulted in a stipulated award the day of the scheduled hearing. (No arbitration hearing took place).  The first arbitration involved Chelmsford Fire.

Mr. Flanagan testified under oath that he did not participate in any ex-parte communications in those previous cases.  Mr. Flanagan also testified as Andover Town Manager  he was involved in JLMC arbitration cases for Andover Police or Fire arbitrations. He testified that in those cases that the management panel member/arbitrator never engaged in ex-parte communications with him or town labor counsel.  Again, what is his basis of knowledge?

During opening statements of the DLR hearing the Town of Chelmsford promised to produce witnesses from the JLMC that would testify that the alleged behavior was consistent with JLMC practice. The Town did not produce a single witness that testified to that. In, fact they only called one person from the JLMC and his testimony was the complete opposite. 

The only person that testified in this case for the Town was George Driscoll who is a full time management staff employee at the JLMC (and attorney). The Town rested it case when they realized no one was going to testify that their behavior was “consistent with established practices” or legal for that matter.

For these reasons I dispute Mr. Flanagan’s email to you and his ongoing position on this matter.

–Mr. Vispoli indicated that this matter does not involve Andover. 

I believe Mr. Vispoli and the Andover Select Board’s opinion is at best short sighted.  Mr. Flanagan was working in a Volunteer role for the JLMC because he is a Town Manager. All volunteers are considered Special State Employees by law.  Because of his position as Andover Town Manager.(All JLMC members names are listed on the website with their employment designation beside it. Andover Town Manager). Interestingly, Mr. Flanagan is no longer listed on the JLMC website.

Mr. Flanagan used Town of Andover servers when sending his emails and used a Town of Andover cell phone when sending text messages that were considered ex-parte communications. In fact it appears all of his email communications in this case were done on Andover town servers. Also, much of these communications were done during regular business hours not on his personal time. Additionally, mediation sessions and arbitration dates are held during normal business hours while Mr. Flanagan is on  Andover’s clock.

Mr. Flanagan received a subpoena for his text messages surrounding this case. Mr. Flanagan failed to produce said text messages. (Town Labor Counsel Terry produced these text messages).

During testimony under oath Mr. Flanagan was asked why he did not produce the text messages. Mr. Flanagan testified that they must have been deleted. He testified that it was in fact a Town phone. 

Therefore, It appears that Mr. Flanagan violated the law by destroying public records.

Please remember I requested a Public Record request from Andover surrounding communications on this arbitration. Eventually, after a threat of legal action, I received these emails which are all Andover public records.

When looking at Mr. Vispoli’s statement it appears that in his mind if you reiterate something it makes it more true. I assure you, that is not the case.

For these reasons I dispute Mr. Vispoli’s and the Select Board’s opinion that this is not an Andover issue. 

Dave, I know this is a lot to digest but thought you should hear it from me. I hope it makes sense and you can follow it.

Thank You,

Frank Goode

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By Dave Copeland

Dave Copeland is an Andover resident who started Andover News in the summer of 2022. Copeland is the regional manager for Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island for Patch.com, but Andover News is independent and in no way affiliated with Patch.com. Copeland has worked in journalism for more than 25 years. Before joining Patch in 2017, he worked for several newspapers and news organizations, including Dow Jones, the Boston Globe and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He is the author of Blood & Volume: Inside New York's Israeli Mafia (Barricade Books, 2007). Copeland and his wife have two young daughters and have lived in Andover since June 2018. See www.davecopeland.com for more information.

One thought on “Chelmsford Union Chief: Flanagan Broke Law”
  1. Great in depth article Dave on the continued unethical behavior of Flanagan.
    I encourage Frank and his union membership to refer the case to the attorney general for review and prosecution.

Comments are closed.