No License, Behind Wheel of Mass. Fire Truck

LOWELL, Mass. -- A Lowell firefighter drove a fire truck for six months without a driver's license, never telling the city he had lost his right to drive for 180 days because he refused to take a Breathalyzer test after a traffic stop.

Donald Goyette, 42, of 86 Corbett St., was placed on unpaid administrative leave late Wednesday, the same day City Manager Bernie Lynch was scheduled to hold a disciplinary hearing.

The hearing was postponed indefinitely due to scheduling conflicts. Lynch is exploring whether Goyette should be fired.

Goyette, driving his red Ford F-250 pickup, was stopped by State Trooper Kevin Murray on Oct. 20, 2011, about 11:30 p.m. as Goyette drove over a curb and stopped on the grass on the westbound side of Boston's Storrow Drive near the Hatch Shell.

In his report, Murray wrote that Goyette's eyes were "red and glassy" and he detected an odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle. Goyette told the trooper he had a "couple beers" and had been at a Bruins game. Murray said Goyette was "unsteady" on his feet and refused to perform field-sobriety tests.

Goyette refused to take a Breathalyzer test at the State Police barracks in Boston. Under state law, any motorist who refuses the test loses his driver's license for 180 days.

During a subsequent jury trial in Boston Municipal Court, Goyette was found "not responsible" on a marked-lanes violation and not guilty on a drunken-driving charge.

Fire Chief Edward Pitta declined to comment on Goyette, saying he doesn't talk about personnel matters.

The Fire Department and the City Manager's Office were unaware that Goyette's driver's license had been suspended until notified by a reporter.

The Sun made numerous attempts to contact Goyette, his lawyer, James Cormier of Lowell, and union president David Keene for comment.

Lynch said precise details of Goyette's arrest and the disposition of the case didn't become clear until after Goyette's license was reinstated by the Registry of Motor Vehicles, which should have been around April 20.

The city has determined that Goyette drove a city firetruck during several shifts out of the Central Fire Station, with several calls per shift.

The precise number of times Goyette operated a firetruck without a driver's license should become clear in the next several weeks. Police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee said his department has begun an investigation. The probe will be overseen by Lt. Timothy Crowley, who runs the Traffic Division.

Lynch said the city would have taken "immediate action" had it been aware of Goyette's arrest.

"It's not like it was an ongoing problem," Lynch said. "If it was, we would have fixed it right then. Since we didn't learn of this until after the suspension had elapsed, we've attempted to be as fair as we can. I did not want to rush to judgment."

Goyette has faced legal charges twice before.

He was riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle when he was stopped on Oct. 5, 2001, on Middlesex Road in Tyngsboro and charged with drunken driving. He went to trial on April 1, 2002, in Lowell District Court, where a jury found him not guilty.

On Jan. 8, 2010, Goyette was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and affray after he was removed from the downtown Village Smokehouse restaurant by several Lowell police officers, one of whom was injured during the brawl.

The restaurant's manager, Ken Frassica, told The Sun at the time matters got heated when bartenders stopped serving Goyette alcohol because it was believed he had too much to drink.

"He started screaming at bartenders, threatening people, and he refused to leave," Frassica said told The Sun. "So we called police."

Pitta refused to comment on that matter because he doesn't discuss "personnel matters relating to members," his secretary told The Sun at the time.

The affray charge was dismissed at the request of prosecutors at Lowell District Court on March 26, 2010. On the same date he was placed on pretrial probation until June 25, 2010, at which time the disorderly conduct charge was dismissed. The resisting-arrest charge was dismissed upon payment of $200 court costs.

Goyette has been a Lowell firefighter since November 2003 and makes about $60,000 a year.