GILFORD — In a prepared statement read to selectmen and a room full of supporters, including his family, Police Chief Kevin Keenan resigned last night.
Former Chief John Markland as well as a number of town employees were there in support. The only officer in the room during his resignation was Acting Chief James Leach, although many had been there earlier for the swearing in ceremony of a new officer.
Keenan's resignation brings to a close a trying chapter in the recent history of the Police Department that lasted 10 weeks, saw two officers placed on paid leave, and cost the town about $80,000 in salary and legal expenses.
"The Town of Gilford has to move on. My wife and I need to move on. Where our relationship will take us in the future is our business, and our business alone," Keenan said.
Appointed chief about two years ago, Keenan had been a police officer for 20 years in Gilford, rising through the ranks to become chief.
Placed on paid administrative leave 10 weeks ago, Keenan admitted last night to having an affair with one of his subordinates.
"She was and still is a good person," Keenan said, noting that it is known that police officers of all ranks have had extra-marital relationships at times when there were problems within their own marriages.
He said from a moral prospective, anyone can approve or disapprove. But from a human prospective, relationships in the course of employment often "flourish" when marriages deteriorate.
But he also said that there isn't a "no-fraternization" policy in Gilford, nor was there anything in his contract. "It never occurred to me that it was against regulations, or the law, or would be grounds for my termination."
Keenan had harsh words for the current town administration, singling out Selectmen Gus Benavides and Kevin Hayes as well as Town Administrator Scott Dunn, who he said insinuated to a reporter why he had been suspended. He also said he had a problem with having his oldest daughter read about his suspension in the newspapers.
He said he told Benavides in private and later Dunn when his affair became generally known and voluntarily submitted himself to a suspension.
He said he was assured by Benavides the matter would remain confidential and be handled as an internal investigation. Within days, he said, it was turned into a subcontracted investigation to Municipal Resources Inc. — a Meredith company he said has long had ties to Dunn.
He said that he heard Benavides would tell anyone who listen that "he was in (Keenan's) corner."
"If Selectman Benavides is in your corner, beware," he said.
Keenan said Hayes called his personal psychological counselor seeking personal information about him — a statement that caused murmurs of disapproval to circulate through the standing-room only crowd.
He said he consented to an interview with MRI — an independent company hired by the town to do an outside investigation.
He described the investigation as "a hostile, badgering interrogation and it began with the kind of warning that you give to a policeman who is suspected of a crime..." he said.
He said he has no recollection of adultery being prosecuted in the last century. He said if charged he would fight the charge as long as the jury wasn't filled with hypocrites.
He also said the town leaders squelched a petition started within the Police Department to reinstate him. He said he understood all but the three people who stand to gain by his removal supported it.
Keenan said promoting Acting Chief James Leach and Deputy Acting Chief Kris Kelley barred the way to his graceful return.
It took 10 weeks for the town to resolve the issue when, had he been reprimanded or fired within 10 days, he said he would have had some kind of recourse within the regulations provided by the state as they apply to police chiefs.
He said by delaying action — he was on a paid administrative leave — selectmen denied him the right of an appeal.
They instructed officers in the department not to support him, and of promoting people before the matter was finished to "poison the waters."
Keenan said he was told, through his attorney Phil McLaughlin, late last week that he would be subject to a disciplinary hearing at 4 p.m. yesterday and that he would be terminated for "just cause."
He said McLaughlin was told that during the hearing he would not be allowed to enter any evidence and his attorney would not be able to challenge the MRI report.
Keenan assured those who were there to support him that any relationship he had never interfered with his ability treat all officers fairly.
"In real time, I was a very good chief," he said. "In retrospect, I appear to have been a failure. Let me set the record straight: I was always a very good chief chief, the MRI report be damned."
He thanked the people in the department who had supported him throughout his career and received a standing ovation after finishing his statement.
Benavides voted against accepting Keenans's termination. After Keenan and his friends and family left, he said he was and remains in Keenan's corner and never in the course of any of the meeting supported his termination or resignation.