Northampton solid waste manager Karen Bouquillon placed on paid leave after arrest
NORTHAMPTON — The Department of Public of Works’ solid waste manager was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday, one day after pleading not guilty to drug, weapon and drunken driving charges in Northampton District Court, according to city officials.
Police arrested Karen A. Bouquillon, 56, of Montgomery, on Sunday night on charges of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, possession of an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, possession of a firearm or ammunition without a permit (pepper spray), and six counts of possessing a class E drug.
Bouquillon, who earned a $55,438 salary in 2012, was hired by the city as a solid waste coordinator in 1999 and has played a central role in managing Northampton’s solid waste and recycling programs through the years. Her office is in the Water Department building on Prospect Street.
Police responded to Hatfield Street about 7:17 p.m. Sunday for a report of a car striking a tree. Once at the scene, officers found Bouquillon, who they said smelled strongly of alcohol and had slurred speech, outside a Subaru Forester with heavy front-end damage and damage to a trailer attached to the vehicle. Police said the car and trailer belonged to Bouquillon, who failed a series of field sobriety tests and had a blood-alcohol concentration 2½ times the legal limit to drive in Massachusetts.
During an inventory of the car, police seized medications including lorazepam, an anti-anxiety and anti-seizure drug; bupropion, an antidepressant; and levothyroxine, normally used to treat thyroid conditions, all of which were in a weekly pill organizer. She had no prescriptions for them, according to court records. Police said they found one prescription pill container labeled as 500-mg doses of the painkiller acetaminophen with hydrocodone with 14 pills inside and the name of a Florence woman on the label.
Bouquillon worked Saturday at the city’s Drug Take-Back day at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School and was tasked with collecting durable medical equipment and so-called sharps, though it was not entirely clear Tuesday whether she also collected medications or prescription drugs at the event where local police, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials and officers from the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office were collecting unwanted medications from the public. She denied to police after her arrest Sunday that she kept medications collected at the event rather than destroying them.
“Everything is being investigated,” DPW Director Ned Huntley said Tuesday night.
Bouquillon said she did accepted a bag of unwanted medications from a man before the Drug Take-Back Day started and turned it in to officers later in the day, according to court records.
The event was co-sponsored by the Northwestern district attorney’s office and the DEA and netted approximately 1,700 pounds of prescription drugs at 18 locations in Hampshire and Franklin counties, according Mary Carey, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office.
In addition to the drugs, police also found in her vehicle a partially used can of pepper spray, for which Bouquillon allegedly did not have a required firearms identification card, as well as empty and half-full beer bottles. Bouquillon told police that the expired pepper spray had been turned in to her department for destruction by the city police department “a few years ago” and she kept canisters for herself.
City officials interviewed said they did not know what Bouquillon may have been doing in the city on the night of the accident, which occurred on the opposite end of Hatfield Street from where the DPW headquarters is located, or closer to North King Street. At the accident scene, Bouquillon told police that she was driving from Shelburne Falls to her home in Montgomery, according to a police report.
She was released on her own recognizance by Judge W. Michael Goggins and is due back in court June 7 for a pre-trial hearing.