LOWELL -- The sergeant who has directed the Lowell Police Academy since 1996 was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday afternoon as part of the department's investigation into allegations of cheating on a promotional exam.

Sources told The Sun that Sgt. Thomas Fleming lied to a three-member Board of Inquiry probing whether he used a cellphone, or some other electronic device, during the April 29 test at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. That allegation was made by another sergeant who took the test, Angel Otero.

It is unclear whether Fleming, a Lowell police officer since 1982, actually cheated. But sources said he "lied" to the board, and that's the reason for administrative action.

Sources said City Manager Kevin Murphy is now waiting for a recommendation from Police Superintendent William Taylor on an appropriate discipline. Murphy declined comment. Taylor did not return a message left at his office and a text message to his cellphone.

The inquiry board, Capts. Jonathan Webb and Timothy Crowley and Lt. Paul Laferrieer, was appointed by Taylor earlier this week. They immediately began hearing testimony from other sergeants who took the test with Fleming.

"It's like a judge and jury," the source said, in reference to the Board of Inquiry. "Apparently, the judge believed the witnesses, and not Tom Fleming."

Fleming went before the board on Wednesday. He declined to comment Thursday.


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A veteran superior officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said those sergeants who testified against Fleming did not do so lightly.

"Some of these guys absolutely hate each other," the officer said. "But they are not going to stick their neck out because what happened to Fleming could easily happen to them."

Ten promotions were scheduled to take effect last Saturday at midnight. Taylor said earlier this week that he is delaying the process until the inquiry board completes its work. The department tweeted a photograph Thursday morning of Taylor and new captains Crowley and Dan Larocque, fueling speculation that the inquiry was complete.

A separate accusation also clouds the promotion process. Sgt. Steven O'Neill alleged that three sergeants who scored high enough to be promoted to lieutenant are not eligible for promotion because they live in New Hampshire, in violation of internal department regulations. Those regulations, Taylor said, state that Lowell police officers must have a Massachusetts' drivers license plus live within a 10-mile radius of the city.

The Sun has learned that O'Neill has filed an appeal with the state Civil Service Commission and that a hearing Tuesday has been scheduled. O'Neill took the promotional exam but did not score high enough to fill one of the lieutenant vacancies, The Sun has learned.

Fleming directed his first class of police recruits in August 1996. He has led more than 1,000 student officers through 16 academy classes. Fleming joined the department in 1982, and before taking over the academy worked in the patrol division as a street supervisor on the late-night shift.

Fleming has received five awards of merit and service. In 2004 he received a citation on the floor of the state Senate for his volunteer work with Special Olympics Massachusetts.

Fleming is president of the Lowell Superior Officers Association, the union that represents sergeants, lieutenants and captains. He comes from a well-known Lowell family whose roots are strong in the Sacred Heart neighborhood. His father, M. Brendan Fleming, was a longtime city councilor and mayor.

Follow Scott on Twitter @cscottlowellsun.