Board Games - Is Anyone Listening?
On Wednesday, November 18, 2020 our Board of Selectmen approved the recommendation from the Town Administrator to fill the position of Police Chief. In my lifetime of “active” duty as a citizen of this Town I can not remember any appointment riddled with hypocrisy as much as this one.
Stop for a moment to review the process to which they followed. I apologize for the length but in honesty, it was an exceptionally long process.
- The hiring of a “consulting firm” to receive applications and screen applicants at a cost to the Town estimated at $11,900.00, maybe more, for their services. According to the Town Administrator (2/5/20) the money for these services came from a budget “surplus” left by the previous Chief. Both for Fire and Police. None the less the Town paid for it with money designated for other purposes.
It can not be confirmed that the Board of Selectmen approved this as according to the Town Administrator it was a “service agreement” not an “employment contract.” Their approval was not required and therefore never publicly asked for during a meeting. They were TOLD. Apparently, the public did not need to know how our money was being spent either. The Chairman at the time believed, “we owe it to ourselves to look outside for the best possible Candidate.” Time and money wasted. Current personnel ignored.
- Recommendation #1 by the Town Administrator was presented to the Board after an announcement of the “confirmed” appointment was heard on the 6:00pm local news sometime this past Spring. The Board had not yet voted This recommendation was denied, thankfully and (2) sitting members of the Board vocally supported their choice for the Interim Police Chief, whom by all accounts, was doing a fantastic job. He himself was in the hiring process for permanent appointment as well. Please, keep reading.
The Town Administrator and the Member who was on the Selection Committee (now the Chairman) were outraged and upset that the remaining Membership took this negative view. You might say it was tantrum worthy. They carried on about the excellence of “their” choice and how he was the “perfect” person for the job. Please, keep reading.
Weeks passed and suddenly, the Town Administrator announces withdrawal of that Candidate because, “we decided to go in another direction.” Truth be told the impending recommendation had a tainted record and therefore was unsuitable for our Department or any Department. THAT IS WHAT THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR CALLED A “DIFFERENT DIRECTION”.
- The process then continued during which the (2) sitting Members originally supporting the now Deputy Chief (they promoted him from Interim) stood firm on their opinions that he was the best person for the job permanently. The Town Administrator would not recommend him. According to Charter he must.
- In June 2020, the Town Administrator makes another recommendation (an outsider) and this time with the face of the Board changed, it was approved pending a background check.
- During the lengthy process and between the first and second recommendations, the Deputy Chief proceeded to do the job and has led the Department with the most positive of attitude and professionalism, duty, and responsibility. He has continued to do so even though he withdrew his name as a candidate. He must have known something we did not. Please, keep reading.
- November 12, 2020, the Agenda for the Board Meeting is scheduled/posted at 3:50pm for Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at 7:00pm. Looks like an ordinary meeting, with a Public Hearing for the FY2021 Tax Classification. Please, keep reading.
Protocol for public meetings has been altered due to COVID-19 and by direction of the Board of Selectmen a form to submit questions or comments for the “Community Speaks” had to be in Town Hall electronically by the following Monday at noon time.
On Monday, November 16, 2020 at 3:36pm the “amended” agenda is distributed and the appointment for Police Chief and approval of the contract are newly added items. The cut off time for public inclusion had passed. To further complicate matters, a Code Red Alert was issued closing all municipal buildings to the public until further notice. Presumably, this meant no audience would be allowed at the Selectmen’s meeting or maybe they were going to proceed virtually. The public did not know. Either way no comments allowed.
When Wednesday, November 18th arrived, the meeting proceeded in person. Of course, there was no opposition present to speak an opinion however, there was (1) sitting Selectmen that looked to the Department and what is best for the Town and he said NO. Just one. Thank you, David Viera for standing up and being the lone person on that Board who exercised common sense.
Doing the right thing even if you stand alone is exemplary. To say this appointment is not qualified would be unjust. This Chief may very well be qualified in his Administrative duties. That remains to be seen. Perhaps if others who were dismissed under the cover of retirement were treated the same, it would be acceptable, but they were not. They were treated different. Dismissed, gone, and retired because they did not behave or perform with the excellence required no, demanded, by the Board of Selectmen and the Town Administrator.
How is this situation different? The Town Administrator was quoted as saying he knew the “situation” and it was fully disclosed. When? During the application process? During the interview process? Or was it when they were negotiating a contract? WHEN DID THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR KNOW THE ENTIRE “SITUATION AND WHAT EXACTLY IS THE “SITUATION?”
At some point you have to draw a line down the conference table and ask the question are you working for the best interest of the Town of Seekonk OR are you self-serving and blinded by ego to not admit a mistake and are willing to jeopardize the integrity and credibility of our Police Department? Time will tell, I guess.
I will always have continued respect and support for our Seekonk Police, Fire and EM Services. They are stuck working at the behest of Politicians. These Board Games are getting annoying on so many levels. This is disheartening also and will cause this voter to rethink alliances. Do the job and do not politic me. Think about “that line”, your intentions and strength to stand alone if you must. Seekonk comes first. This applies to all employees as well as residents. This recent action has called to question the meaning of equal opportunity employment.
The passion I feel about the people who serve us in blue and the disregard of the Board and the TA left me no choice but to pass this on to you. I am extremely angry at the road they chose that we paid for and will continue to with a contract obligation.