BRISTOL — Michael Lewis, the former Bristol police chief who resigned on Oct. 4, 2017, after a month on paid administrative leave, is now facing three felony counts of theft by deception for allegedly collecting overtime pay for hours he never worked. He also faces additional Class A misdemeanor charges of sexual and simple assault.
A Grafton County Superior Court Grand Jury handed up the three felony indictments against Lewis, of 233 North Ashland Road, Ashland, on June 15. The Grafton County Attorney’s Office had confirmed in December that it was conducting an investigation into allegations against the former police chief.
The charges allege that, on three occasions — between July and December 2012, between January 2013 and December 2014, and between January 2016 and December 2017 — Lewis falsely claimed overtime hours on timesheets he submitted for payment, each of them in excess of $1,500.
Town officials say the money came from New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency Police Detail grants.
A call to Lewis for comment on the charges was not returned.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt, but an independent jury’s decision, after hearing from police, that sufficient evidence exists to warrant a court trial.
Separate charges in Grafton County Superior Court alleged that, on or about Aug. 31, 2017, while serving as police chief, Lewis approached a woman from behind and placed his hands on her buttocks, resulting in charges of sexual assault and simple assault.
Bristol selectmen placed Lewis on paid administrative leave on Sept. 5, 2017.
According to Bristol Town Administrator Nik Coates, Lewis earned $111,746 in 2017. The chief’s contract included a provision for receiving his regular pay for 90 days beyond his resignation date. That, along with vacation and bonus time, brought his regular earnings to $101,739.41. Lewis also claimed $8,252,53 in overtime for grant-funded details such as DWI checkpoints and he received an additional $2,280 for special details and an employee stipend.
In a statement issued following his indictment, the Bristol Board of Selectmen said the town discovered the alleged misuse of money while reviewing internal personnel practices after Lewis’ resignation in October. After reviewing the grant paperwork and related files, the town contacted the New Hampshire Attorney General and the Grafton County Attorney’s Office to ask for an investigation into Lewis’ use of the grant money.
The selectmen said a review of subsequent grant use, from October to the present, uncovered no misuse of the money, and they have implemented new checks and balances.
“The Select Board must operate with a certain level of trust with all department heads that they will act in the best interests of the town,” the board’s statement said. “By state law, police chiefs are afforded a certain level of autonomy … however, when the Select Board was made aware of these concerns, it took action swiftly and decisively. While the result cannot be reversed the system of checks and balances worked: Information was gathered and acted on.”
The statement continued, “The Personnel Policy has been updated and a staff training with the Select Board was held. The Select Board has also met with Police Department staff to assure the staff that it takes all complaints and concerns seriously and will, with the Town Administrator and Human Resources, act accordingly. An all-employee anti-harassment training was also held in February and staff has been reminded that they and the Select Board all share in the responsibility in ensuring that a safe working environment is maintained.”