Town holds disciplinary hearing for officer who allegedly went home on shifts

Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer, left, and police officer Chris Gallo, right, look at each other from across the table during Gallo’s disciplinary hearing at Abbot Hall on Wednesday. Sitting with them at the table is, from left, attorney Gary Nolan, town council Jane Friedman, Police Chief Dennis King, and attorney Peter Perroni. Photo by Spenser Hasak

After spending nearly two years on paid administrative leave, a disciplinary hearing on a pair of allegations of wrongdoing against Officer Christopher Gallo was held Wednesday morning.

The allegations against Gallo are twofold — first that he allegedly committed time fraud by going home during periods when he was assigned to work patrol shifts — and the second stemming from a domestic disturbance where his girlfriend alleged she had been assaulted.

Gallo was first suspended without pay for five days in June 2021, after Marblehead police received a report from the Inspector General’s office that included photographs of a police cruiser parked outside his home over the course of four months. During the period of surveillance, a police cruiser was allegedly observed outside Gallo’s home 104 times. Photographs documented 91 of those instances, and on 19 days there was evidence of multiple checks in one night, confirming the cruiser allegedly remained at his home.

He was then placed on paid administrative leave following the five-day suspension as an internal investigation into the Inspector General’s report played out. The investigation found that Gallo allegedly violated a number of department policies.

During that period, police were called to Gallo’s home for a report of a domestic disturbance in July 2021. Gallo’s girlfriend told police she had been assaulted by him, and while he was cleared of doing so, he was found to have allegedly let his girlfriend, who was drinking, operate a boat with his children aboard, despite the fact that her drinking made his children uncomfortable.

Gallo and his girlfriend also took the boat to and from Gloucester, where they both drank.

An investigation found that Gallo exercised poor judgment in the incident. He was found to have violated several department policies in that incident, including conduct unbecoming of a police officer.

As a result of the incident, the police department filed a 51A report against him alleging child abuse or neglect, after they found Gallo’s children had suffered emotional abuse.

While no determination was made on the status of Gallo’s employment with the department as of press time, Kezer said he intended to produce a document with determinations and recommendations based on testimony heard.

Throughout the hearing, Gallo, wearing a gray suit, stared calmly across the table at Kezer, occasionally passing notes with his attorneys and checking his phone.

The hearing began with an opening statement from Town Counsel Jane Friedman, who laid out the charges against Gallo and the various investigative measures taken by the police department as well as the subsequent reports they produced.

Attorney Gary Nolan, who is representing Gallo, delivered a lengthy opening statement calling into question the veracity of the photographs that make up the crux of the case against his client, and repeatedly decried what he believed was a lack of due process in the investigation into his client.

“Everyone kept kicking Chris Gallo’s can down the road,” Nolan said, noting that Kezer is the third town administrator to have been involved in the case. “[They] let him sit there and rot.”

The photographs, Nolan said, were taken by the same person who resigned from the department after allegedly carving a swastika into a police cruiser. That person, he said, had a vendetta against Gallo, who was responsible for informing town officials that the other officer is one who drew the swastika.

He also called into question the fairness of the hearing, noting that as town administrator, Kezer is an agent of the town, and in his view could not then rule fairly on the case.

After opening statements, Friedman called Sgt. Sean Brady, who authored the two reports into Gallo’s alleged misconduct, as a witness. Brady said he has had a close relationship with Gallo since he started working in the department.

During direct examination, Brady confirmed that an officer who worked from home during their shift would be in violation of their job description. He added that the department has no policies allowing officers to work from home, though he admitted that officers do occasionally return home while on the clock.

The hearing broke for lunch around 1:20 p.m. Wednesday, with Brady’s testimony continuing at 2:20 p.m. Friedman said she intended to call two more witnesses, while Nolan indicated he intended to call Gallo to testify.

After Gay’s testimony, the hearing was adjourned and will not proceed until Wednesday, April 26 at 10 a.m.