“Please, just give us a police chief.” That’s what Officer Heath Widdiss asked of the Board of Selectmen at their meeting last night.
But Widdiss and the rest of the police department likely will have to wait until late 2009 for a decision on a permanent chief after the board decided to defer the start of the recruitment process until after April’s town meeting.
With budget discussions consuming much of the board’s attention in the run-up to town meeting, Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said they would not have enough time to make a good decision.
“The worst thing would be for this board to make a quick decision without much thought,” she said. “Our financial issues should be the focus.”
Interim Chief Moran to stay on
Interim Police Chief Jane Moran, who has been heading the department since Police Chief William Webber’s death in early November, will continue in the position until a new chief is named.
“The department is running smoothly, there are no problems that I’m aware of. … It’s not uncommon for this town to have long-term interim department heads,” Phaneuf said.
Selectman Salvatore Giorlandino agreed, saying, “I don’t see any urgency to move forward at this juncture.”
Chairman Bill Boland had hoped to start the process immediately with the goal of naming a new chief by the end of the fiscal year in June. The process is estimated to take as long as six months. He warned that starting after might prolong the process as summer vacations will make scheduling interviews difficult.
Widdiss, who is president of the Southborough police union, said delaying the decision would have a negative impact on department morale. “We have an uneasy feeling wondering what’s going to happen next. It takes away from the focus of the department.”
Phaneuf told Widdiss she wants the board to take the time necessary to make an informed decision, including talking with individuals in the Police Department to get their input.
“The fairest process possible”
When the time comes to work out the recruitment process, Giorlandino said he would only favor a process in which Chief Moran is automatically one of the finalists.
Boland pointed out that the delay works in the favor of Interim Chief Moran as a candidate. “I see this as an opportunity for the Police Department to show a great leader is out there and that the department is rallying around her.”
“I want to give qualified internal candidates every opportunity to be chief of this town,” Boland said. “I want the fairest process possible.”
Inerim police chief appointed
Obituary for Chief Webber