The case of Sean Clark barely went noticed. And that was the way that the Somerville, Massachusetts Police Department seemed to like it – until the facts no longer could be hidden. Very recently, public radio station WBUR-FM in Boston, having examined a list of Commonwealth grand jury indictments involving law enforcement officers provided by the Middlesex County district attorney’s office, revealed that Clark had been convicted this March and sentenced in April for embezzling more than $83,000 during October 2017-January 2019 from his union, the Somerville Police Employees Association (SPEA). Officer Clark, who had a gambling problem, remains on the force, but probably not for long. The City of Somerville completed a probe at the end of March, and reportedly is recommending that he be fired.
Union Corruption Update made note of this scandal back in January 2019. A source close to the local police department had revealed that the SPEA, an independent union of about 100 patrol officers, was missing somewhere between $50,000 and $90,000. The union indicated that it was investigating the situation, but gave no further information. As it turned out, the money had been stolen. The culprit, Sean Clark, age 42, was an active duty Somerville cop and SPEA treasurer. He was convicted on March 12, 2020 after a quick trial and then sentenced on April 28 to two years of probation. According to his attorney, he has paid back $68,800 of the roughly $83,000 taken. Simultaneously, Clark, now on unpaid administrative leave, has been the subject of a police internal affairs investigation.
The case received little publicity. That was in part due to the coronavirus. A spokesperson for District Attorney Marian Ryan said that the trial ended just as the office was closing down due to the pandemic. Still, the department and the union appeared to keep the case under wraps as best they could. The specifics did not come up until very recently when WBUR received a list from the district attorney of more than 100 current and former law enforcement officers who prosecutors asserted may be unreliable witnesses in court due to their past conduct or outstanding allegations. As police unions are coming under extra scrutiny these past few months, cases such as these can cause real damage to a police department’s reputation. Officer Clark’s thefts were motivated by his need to cover gambling losses, an all too common syndrome in unions generally. He began diverting funds to pay his bookie and to engage in further sports betting. Hopefully, his conviction will be a lesson to fellow officers that gambling doesn’t pay.