NORTH HAVERHILL —The trial of the former Bristol Chief of Police ended Wednesday when the state made a deal with him that he immediately pay $9,000 in restitution.
Michael Lewis, 39, of Ashland, was indicted on two counts of theft by deception alleging that he submitted fraudulent time cards which resulted in the town of Bristol paying him overtime pay for special details he never worked.
Following two and a half days of trial, Lewis accepted a negotiated settlement that in addition to reimbursing the town, calls for him to remain on good behavior for two years, which includes no arrests.
The state had called seven witnesses to testify and had not concluded its case when the parties reached a settlement and the jury was dismissed.
Grafton County Attorney Martha Hornick said she is always willing to talk about resolving a case and felt getting $9,000 back to the town was important.
As a result of the investigation, Hornick said, the NH Office of Highway Safety has adopted additional protocols to track the use of grant money that fund directed patrols by police.
As part of the settlement brokered between Hornick and defense Attorney Eric Wilson, Lewis also agreed to plead guilty to a separately pending misdemeanor charge of breach of bail for possessing guns in violation of the condition of his release following his arrest. He was fined $1,000, which was suspended on the condition of good behavior for two years, which includes no convictions.
If Lewis fails to abide by the terms of the agreement regarding the felony charges, the state reserved the right to resume their prosecution and take the case back to trial.
Attorney Wilson did not return a phone messages seeking comment.
In October 2017, as part of the town’s investigation into internal practices within the police department, concerns were raised regarding then-Chief Lewis’ alleged use of New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency grant funds. After reviewing the grant paperwork and related files, town officials contacted the N.H. Attorney General’s Office and the Grafton County Attorney’s Office.
Lewis was placed on paid administrative leave by the Bristol Board of Selectmen on Sept. 5, 2017, and resigned on Oct. 4, while the investigation was still underway.
In June 2018, Lewis was initially charged with three counts of theft by deception, but on Feb. 5, 2019 the day the case was to go to trial, Hornick dropped the complaints that were drafted by her predecessor Lara Saffo, citing defects in the indictments. The case was presented to a grand jury 10 days later, and two indictments were returning charging Lewis with falsifying time sheets between July 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2014, and again between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017. Both alleged that Lewis’ purpose was to deprive the town.
Nine months after his resignation, Lewis filed a wage claim seeking $23,487.86 in unpaid sick leave. The state Labor Board ruled the claim invalid, and a Superior Court judge affirmed the decision holding that under town policy only certain retiring employees qualify for that benefit and that Lewis did not as he had not retired but resigned.