To The Daily Sun,
The relationship between the Gilmanton Police Department and Gilmanton Selectboard is embarrassing to me as a taxpayer. I’m sure others will agree. After having one member on the selectboard sue the town and be awarded cash settlement, we are faced with another lawsuit. Why? What is flawed with our selectmen’s handling of the process?
On my resume stating my qualifications for selectman, I made the following statement: “I support all town departments (especially the Police Department in their current crisis). I have no desire to micromanage any department.” Selectman McWhinnie asked me through Facebook why I thought there was a “crisis.” I told him that simply seeing the signs in Gilmanton which state “we support our Police Department even if the selectmen don’t” was my first indication. The fact that one of the signs was vandalized is an indication of how divisive this issue has been for the community. I also witnessed several comments on Facebook regarding police and selectmen issues. By reading the minutes from the December selectmen’s meeting, where the selectmen issued their “directions,” I also detected some discord. I was well aware of the Belmont case involving issues like these. Finally, having each side “lawyer up” is another hint that all was not well. If that doesn’t constitute a crisis, what does?
Having been a selectman, I realize the selectmen can’t comment on this issue now and all questions should be handled through their attorney. I don’t want to say something which may prejudice a legal settlement but I still wonder how much is this costing the taxpayers? Will there really be a “winner”? Even if the judge finds for one party, it seems the future relationship between the police department and the selectboard is in jeopardy.
I would like to point out a couple of things regarding issues like this. First, as a former police chief, I relished the opportunity to provide information which answered questions from my superiors. Why? Because it gave me an opportunity to be proactive and frame an issue in my terms and support it by facts. It gave me a chance to brag about all the good things my people were doing. The more I did this, the fewer questions I got asked. I believe it was because my superiors knew I would really provide the information they wanted and answer any question honestly and completely. I believe they were confident in my openness and honesty. At the same time, none of my supervisors ever told me how to operate or manage my 500 people.
Also, in my military career I had a top secret clearance. Just because I had a top secret clearance didn’t mean I had the right to access any top secret information. I could only access those documents where I had a “need to know.” While I believe the selectmen have a legal right to view personnel records, do they have a need? If so what is that need? It shouldn’t be personnel issues. The chief is responsible for personnel issues within his department and if the Selectboard isn’t happy with how he handles issues, they should deal directly with him and not his subordinates. There is also a little issue I also stated in my resume. “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical. Always be above reproach.” Do the board members really need the information they want to access or is it being intentionally done to create a certain specific response from the chief?
Selectman McWhinnie suggested I should know more about the issues before establishing my positions. I know about as much as many of the taxpayers because the selectmen can’t say anything. Maybe if the selectboard members addressed this issue in a proactive, positive manner they would have more time to be better prepared to answer questions on other issues like the generator question at the deliberative session. That issue will warrant a different letter.
Can cooler heads prevail? Is the relationship between the police chief and selectboard repairable? Someone needs to take a proactive, positive first step. Who will that be? I have no doubt that there is some agenda behind this clash. Maybe if I understood the agenda I could better define a position. I don’t, so I can’t. Who is paying for the discord between the police chief and the board and their inability or unwillingness to problem solve? We, as taxpayers, are footing the bill.
Thank you for considering my thoughts on this issue. If elected I believe I can bring some balance and neutrality to this situation – assuming it isn’t solved legally by then.
Thank you for listening to my thoughts on this matter. Gilmanton voters, your vote for who is elected selectman will have a significant impact on this and many other issues. I know you will choose wisely.
Thank you for considering my thoughts on this issue.
James D. “Dan" Shallow
- Written by Edward Engler
- Category: Letters
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