Update on the search for a new police chief

by susan on August 17, 2009

Southborough Police sealToday is the last day to submit an application to be Southborough’s chief of police. Search committee chairwoman Desiree Aselbekian said she didn’t know offhand how many resumes have been submitted, but she told selectmen that resumes “have been coming in.”

Aselbekian updated selectmen last week on how the search for a new police chief has been going.

In July members of the committee met with police chiefs from five area communities that have a similar demographic to Southborough. Committee members asked the chiefs for advice on the type of leader Southborough should look for.

“The information was very valuable,” Aselbekian said. “All five pretty much said the same thing.”

The committee also held two “focus groups” with current members of the police department to solicit feedback. Aselbekian said any member of the department was welcome to speak and offer advice or feedback to the committee.

“We got a very good sense of the police department,” Aselbekian said. “Our current police department has helped us tremendously in giving us background on the type of chief we need in this community.”

On behalf of the search committee, Aselbekian asked selectmen for guidance on a salary range for the position. Selectmen requested information on what other area chiefs make and will make a decision on salary at an upcoming meeting.

As for the search committee, they’ll start reviewing resumes at their next meeting on August 26. They hope to provide recommendations to selectmen at the end of September or beginning of October. Selectmen have final say over who gets hired for the position.

(For the latest on the search for a new police chief, click here.)

1 Marty August 21, 2009 at 11:41 PM

I read in the Villager that the Police Chief Search Committee met in executive session with members of the police department to seek their input.

I am a bit confused here. Does “executive session” mean they met in a session that was not open to the public? Is that allowed under the state open meeting law?

2 susan August 21, 2009 at 11:49 PM

Yep, executive sessions are closed to the public. Under the state open meeting law, an executive session can be called for a number of reasons. Here’s the relevant text: http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/39-23b.htm.

Update: I fixed the link, so it should work now.

3 Marty August 22, 2009 at 1:52 PM

Susan,

That link is broken. This link works:
http://www.mass.gov/Cago/docs/Government/openmtgguide.pdf

I have read this section and it appears there was no lawful basis for executive sessions.

I sincerely hope the information I read in the Villager stating the Committee held two executive sessions (closed to the public) with Southborough Police Department personnel, was incorrect. The Villager said Desiree reported this information to the Board of Selectmen in an update.

This entire Chief selection process has been a disaster. First, the Acting Chief had to be an automatic finalist, then she didn’t. First the applicants had to live in Southborough or an adjoining town, next they did not. The Board of Selectmen has publicly told applicants this process was on the up and up and there was no-predetermined selection.

This is one of the sorriest sagas I have ever witnessed.

How in the world can the applicants think this is on the up and up when the Committee has “secret” meetings with police department personnel. Its not fair to the Acting Chief or any other applicant!!!

The last time we had a search committee for a police chief, there was a lawsuit filed against committee members. I don’t know how it was settled and it really doesn’t matter who filed the lawsuit.

My point is one applicant felt aggrieved in that process. With this current circus, we can only hope the town has sufficient reserves in its legal accounts to handle the oncoming onslaught of suits.

In previous posts I have made no bones about my disappointment with Sal’s leadership on this issue. I am surprised that Bonny Phaneuf has not stepped up on this issue. She is usually a very reasonable and wise voice of caution.

I have cut and pasted this information from the mass.gov site. If you go to the web site, they give pretty good examples of these exceptions. Clearly, this Committee erred.

PURPOSES
The nine purposes or exemptions for which a governmental body may vote to hold an executive session are:

(1) To discuss the “reputation, character, physical condition or mental
health rather than the professional competence” of a particular individual.

(2) To consider the discipline or dismissal of, or to hear complaints or
charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member, or
individual.

(3) To discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining or litigation, if
an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the bargaining or litigating
position of the governmental body; to conduct strategy sessions in
preparation for negotiations with non-union personnel; and to conduct
collective bargaining sessions or contract negotiations with non-union
personnel.

(4) To discuss the deployment of security personnel or devices.

(5) To investigate charges of criminal misconduct or to discuss the filing of
criminal complaints.

(6) To consider the purchase, exchange, lease or value of real property, if
an open discussion may have a detrimental effect on the negotiating position
of the governmental body with a person, firm, or corporation.

(7) To comply with the provisions of any general or special law or federal
grant-in-aid requirements.

(8) To consider and interview applicants for employment by a preliminary
screening committee or a subcommittee appointed by a governmental body if
an open meeting will have a detrimental effect in obtaining qualified
applicants; provided, however, that this clause shall not apply to any meeting, including meetings of a preliminary screening committee or a subcommittee appointed by a governmental body, to consider and interview applicants who have passed a prior preliminary screening.

(9) To meet or confer with a mediator, as defined in section twenty-three
C of chapter two hundred and thirty-three, with respect to any litigation or
decision on any public business within its jurisdiction involving another
party, group or body, provided that: (a) any decision to participate in
mediation shall be made in open meeting session and the parties, issues
involved and purpose of the mediation shall be disclosed; and (b) no action
shall be taken by any governmental body with respect to those issues which
are the subject of the mediation without deliberation and approval for such
action at an open meeting after such notice as may be required in this section.

4 Bob March 29, 2010 at 12:46 PM

I heard about this recently and I am curious because it is an interesting subject:

Why would exception number 8 not cover this case (“consider” or “interview” candidates in a preliminary screening)? The idea is to protect candidates until they have gotten past the initial round. If the committee is talking about the candidates, that would expose who they are. Why is an executive session for that not allowed by that provision?

Also, filing an Open Meeting Law complaint with the state is easy. Did the original poster do that? If not, why? That is the way to get definitive closure on an issue like this, it is easy, free, and I think it even protects the complaintant’s idenity.

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